TOO HIGH by Corson Hirschfeld
Forge, September 2001
Hawaiian archeologist Harmon "Digger" Fitz hates both cops and snakes. When he goes to visit his cousin Edgar, who is involved in some mysterious consulting work in Golden Leaf, Kentucky, Digger finds himself hip deep in both lawmen and slithering reptiles. Unfortunately, shortly after the family reunion, Edgar turns up dead, the victim of a gruesome murder, and Edgar appears to be the prime suspect.
Aided by his herpetologist niece, Nikki, now his only surviving relative, Digger sets out to solve the mystery and foil the local-yokel cops who seem to have it in for him. Together this unlikely pair--the aging hippie and the chipper, enthusiastic grad student--uncover a nest of vipers far scarier than the rattlesnakes that seem to turn up around every corner. Two dueling antiquities collectors and their various private eyes, bodyguards and militiamen, turn sleepy Golden Leaf into a war zone as they vie for a rare artifact.
In Hirschfeld's second Digger Fitz mystery (see our review of ALOHA MR. LUCKY, the first novel in the series), hapless Digger is an appealing and very human amateur detective. The relationship between him and Nikki, his snake-loving niece, is sweet and charming, and the unlikely friendship that springs up between Digger and the local sheriff, who's a lot smarter than he first appears, is a welcome departure from cliché.
The only drawback I found in this amusing novel was the number of point-of-view characters. Though I didn't count, it seemed like too many to keep track of. I found myself a bit exhausted trying to keep up with the various threads of plot introduced by each new character--some who appear only briefly, never to be seen again. But, to Hirschfeld's credit, all the threads pull together in the end for a satisfying conclusion.
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