The reason I'm smiling is that I just finished visiting some old friends -- Dan Rhodes, his wife Ivy, Hack and Lawton, Ruth Grady, and Seepy Benton -- and I had a great time. The Wild Hog Murders is Bill Crider's 18th novel about Dan Rhodes, Bucklin County's sheriff. This is one book that had to be written; Bill has had Texas feral hogs appear in every one of Rhodes's seventeen previous adventures, so it was high time they took center stage.
A feral hog makes its appearance in the first sentence. It is hit by the car that Rhodes is chasing, wrecking the car. The drivers escape and flee into the woods, with Rhodes in pursuit. Then all hell breaks loose. In the distance, Rhodes can hear gun shots and dogs howling, then the thunder of a pack of hogs coming his way. Rhodes runs back, almost making it to safety, when the hogs charge his car. One puts a good sized dent in the car before rushing off. The stampede rushes around the car and vanishes into the woods on the other side of the road.
There's something you've got to understand about feral hogs: they are mean and deadly and almost impossible to stop. A pistol isn't much good against them; you need some heavy-duty firepower to stop those suckers. Their tusks are long and razor sharp, all the better to slice you open in a heartbeat. And they're big -- two or three hundred pounds (or more) of muscle and bad temperment. And they can be stubborn in their rage. The hog that had been hit by the fugitive's Ford focus was merely stunned. And pissed off. It charged the car again, causing more damage, before it literally battered itself to death.
With the hogs gone, Rhodes again goes into the woods in search of the pair that had fled. He finds the driver dead, shot in the chest, without a trace of his accomplice. What started as a simple convenience store theft and chase turns into a complex mystery involving another murder, a band of hog hunters, a pair of do-good animal activists, Arkansas bank robbers, a famous
Once again, Bill Crider mixes humor and adventure with a sharp eye toward small-town life and what makes it work. Dan Rhodes is an honorable and likeable Everyman and his travails and victories resonate with the reader.
Highly recommended. And when are we going to see book nineteen?