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    Review of BLACK LIKE BLOOD by Russ Hall (see his website)


    Five Star, August 2005

    When he spots a boat heading out in a storm, Texas Ranger Tillis Macrory calls his friend (and suspicious father) and the two head out to check. A couple of teenage divers discover the long-dead body of another diver--a diver held in a bear-trap under water. All of a sudden, all of Hoel's Dam, Texas's dark secrets begin to emerge. How can this really be a city without a history. What happened to the diver? What happened to the recently deceased mayor? Is there really a diamond mine on Hoel property? What caused the feuds between the Hoel, Granite, and Spurlock families?

    Ranger Macrory doesn't feel like he's getting much active help from the sheriff. Instead, the new dispatcher, aging Esbeth Walters, and mysteriously capable Sheriff Deputy Gala, along with the two kids, seem to be the only help Macrory can get. Even his boss is jerking on the reins, trying to make sure Macrory doesn't rock political boats.

    Macrory and Esbeth discover that there really were diamonds--but was it a hoax? If so, for what possible purpose? Then there's Old Man Hoel, with his huge ranch and his refusal to see anyone. The Granite family isn't as rich as the Hoels, but it was definitely involved in feuding--and is interested in finding the rumored chest of diamonds. And a mysterious gambler has moved into town and is making arrangements that have to have a meaning. Because a big-time gambler like Morgan Lane wouldn't move into a small-time town like Hoel's Dam just for a weekly poker game with the sheriff.

    Author Russ Hall (see more reviews of mysteries by Hall)maintains multiple parallel investigative tracks as the kids, Macrory, and Esbeth each tug on the clues to uncover the truth that has already killed so many. Hall's writing is vivid, sometimes almost poetical with Macrory a particularly intriguing character. I was somewhat confused by Hall's reference to Macrory and his friend, game warden Logan, fighting in Korea. As BLACK LIKE BLOOD is set in the present day, this would make Macrory in his seventies--and I was shocked when he described himself as 43. This continuity issue did distract me from the story, which is a shame, because the story is interesting, complicated, and ready to offer one more twist just when you think you've figured everything out.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 10/18/05

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