Five Star, Feb 2008, $25.95
In Randolph, Kansas, Riley County Sheriff James Early sits outside the bank when a robber arrives with a gun. The thief gets nothing because the banker Rance Dalby locks himself in a vault. The robber flees on horseback after hitting James in the head with his gun. Jim gives chase, but the crook escapes. They later find the horse with a brand on it so can identify the felon as Sonny Estes, the son of a local rancher.
As Sonny continues to torment and tease James, someone brutally murders Jewish schoolteacher Judith Smitts in her home. Her husband works for the railroad so is away on business. As Jim, his Deputy Hutch Tolliver and State Trooper Daniel Plemmons investigate the violent homicide that begins to take an international spin of never again revenge; the sheriff’s pregnant wife Thelma falls into a deep depression.
This is an engaging late 1940s Jayhawker State police procedural that is at its best when the focus is on the murder of the teacher, Thelma’s depression, and as comic relief catching Sonny. When the tale takes a sidebar into a subplot involving President Truman it loses some momentum. Still Jerry Peterson cleverly uses real people like Truman and the lack of medical knowledge of pregnancy related depression to establish the era of an enjoyable regional historical mystery.