(Jump down to read a review of The Blight Way)
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAY 8, 2008)
Avalanche, the second book by Patrick McManus about Sheriff Bo Tully, is an entertaining, funny and enjoyable murder mystery set in snowy Blight County, Idaho. Sheriff Tully is asked by Blanche Wilson to investigate the disappearance of her husband Mike Wilson, the owner of the West Branch Lodge. The Sheriff requests the help of some of his best men, including his father, the former sheriff Pap Tully, to assist him in what they hope will be an enjoyable investigation at the lodge. On their way, the Sheriff is almost killed by an avalanche that he and his father just escape, only to then realize some others may need their help:
“It looks like we may be spending more time up at the lodge than we figured, “Tully said.
“We’re trapped all right. It’ll be a spell before the highway department gets the road cleared. Like next spring!” He licked the cigarette paper and sealed it with quivering fingers.
Tully walked over to the edge of the road and looked down into the canyon. “Oh no!” he said.
“Don’t tell me,” Pap said. “I don’t want to hear.”
“The water seems to be backing up. I think the avalanche has dammed up the river!”
“I hope the lodge ain’t close to the river.”
“No, it’s back up on the side of the mountain. But if I remember right, there’s a cabin down close to the river not far from here.”
“I don’t care if there is a cabin,” Pap said. “I’ve had enough heroics for one day.”
“I didn’t notice any heroics.”
“It’s what I ain’t done that’s heroic.”
Without much help from his father, the Sheriff is able to save Lindsay Blair and Marcus Tripp, a young woman and man staying in one of the cabins close to the river. Lindsay ends up being a smart and interesting character that actually ends up later helping the Sheriff with his investigations.
The avalanche blocks the only vehicle access to the lodge so all of the guests, employees as well as Sheriff Tully and his men are forced to stay at the lodge. Power and phone are also initially unavailable until the emergency generator restores power and later the phone company gets limited phone service. The Sheriff is occasionally also able to use his cell phone in difficult to reach high mountainous areas.
In typical mystery format, Sheriff Bo Tully meets many interesting people who are staying or working at the resort. Janice Duffy, a woman who is training sled dogs, is a former love interest who also despite being married, constantly flirts with Bo. Janice and her dogs help the Sheriff in his investigations as they are able to take him to various remote cabins and other areas that a truck could not get to as easily or at all. These adventures give Janice more opportunities to flirt and Bo more opportunities to try to keep her away.
The Sheriff is thorough in his approach and does take advantage of his team to help look for Mike Wilson whose absence from the lodge appears very suspicious, especially when Horace Walker, a partner in Wilson’s development deal, is found dead in Blight City. The difficulty in getting into the city with the blocked road makes it hard to believe Wilson is guilty, and when Wilson shows up dead himself soon thereafter, the Sheriff’s job becomes that much more difficult in unraveling who’s guilty and of what.
To a certain extent, this book has many aspects of a typical cozy murder mystery (at least as I understand that term) with the violence (murder) being discovered after the fact, many characters who seem suspicious, some mild romance, a little humor and cursing without the four letter words. Of course this book has more humor than most, although it is light humor. I certainly did think of Agatha Christie as the author set suspicion on many different characters only to find out that they could not be guilty later, or at least not guilty of the murders. Of course the main characters are all men and really this is somewhat of a police procedural, so that’s probably not typical of a cozy. In any event, this style was not exactly what I was expecting but it was a nice change of pace from the harsher books I often read (but enjoy and still prefer).
The book contains many memorable characters and the interaction among them is enjoyable and humorous, especially between the Sheriff and his seventy-five year old father. Tully’s relationship with his deputies also provide some memorable scenes, especially with his CSI department, which is made up of one person, who he’s nicknamed Lurch. Lurch is often asked to go places he would rather not, but in the end, he does what he’s asked, and the interaction between the sheriff and Lurch lead to some of the funnier scenes in the book.
This is the first book I have read by Patrick McManus and I certainly enjoyed this book enough to try some others, especially the first Sherriff Bo Tully book, The Blight Way and any future books in the series. I’m sure that by not reading the first book I missed some references, however, I was certainly able to follow and enjoy Avalanche and didn’t feel lost at any time.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read Chapter One from Avalanche at SimonSays.com(back to top)
"The Blight Way"
(Reviewed by Clint Hunter JUL 4, 2007)
“There’s something you don’t see much anymore,” Pap commented.
“What’s that?” Tully said, thinking about the girl at the cash register.
“A car getting its windshield cleaned at a gas station.”
“That’s because Blight County is thirty years back in time, and Famine is at least fifty years back.”
Patrick F. McManus is well-known for his outdoor columns which are featured in Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. A prolific writer, his output numbers almost two dozen books and numerous other articles. In addition, he proudly boasts of being one of the founders of The Rancid Crabtree Fly-Fishing and Filosofical Society. This novel, The Blight Way, introduces Sheriff Bo Tully to the host of McManus readers and marks McManus’ entry into the field of mystery writing.
As usual, things were pretty quiet at the Blight County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Bo Tully even had time to think about adding a few more of his watercolor paintings to the collection already hanging on the wall. His one man Crime Scene Investigative Unit, Byron Proctor, was fiddling with his computer as usual, and his under sheriff, Herb Eliot, was about to finish reading the morning paper. In fact, Tully even had time to feed a fly to his pet spider, Wallace, before he answered a phone call from Batim Scragg. Batim is an ex-con who owns a ranch over in the nearby town of Famine. Scragg reported that he had found a dead body hanging over a fence on his ranch and thought maybe Tully ought to come out and take a look.
Alerting his office crew to the situation, Tully heads across country toward Famine and delays only long enough to pick up his father, Pap, whose retirement from his sheriff’s job had opened up the position for Bo. Pap was about to celebrate his 75th birthday and Bo figured that he would give Pap the opportunity to join in on the investigation of the murder as a birthday present.
At the Scragg ranch, they find the body still draped over the fence. It is wearing a dark-blue pinstripe suit with two small bullet holes in the back, one black patent-leather shoe, and one black sock. Tully immediately knows he is dealing with something out of the ordinary. After all, no one from Blight County would be caught dead in black patent-leather shoes.
To get the investigation off on the right foot, Tully calls his one man Crime Scene Investigative Unit to the scene. He also elicits help from an Indian tracker named Dave who owns a local restaurant that features huge chicken fried steaks. With a few more additions to their group, they begin a thorough search of the rest of the Scragg property. Shortly after the search begins, two more murder victims are discovered. The new fatalities share the same clothing preference as the earlier victim. Now the questions multiply. Who are these people dressed in stereotypical Mob attire and what are they doing on an isolated ranch in Famine Idaho? And, of course, who shot them and why?
As the investigation moves forward at a rapid pace, Tully and his crew must deal with a myriad of obstacles and a few dead-end paths. In the end, however, he proves himself and his staff more than able to deal with these ever changing circumstances and bring the case to a satisfying ending.
The Blight Way is a quick and enjoyable read in which McManus rewards his readers with an entertaining and off-the wall police procedural populated with an eclectic cast of characters, a rye sense of humor, and a pleasing down-home country twang.Finally, I must admit that I like Bo Tully. He comes across as smart, quick-witted, enthusiastic, and amiable. The fact that he obviously cares about his father and those with whom he works adds a nice touch to his humanity. My future plans are to continue to scan the bookstores until I find further episodes of this quirky group.
- Amazon readers rating: from 32 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Blight Way at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Sheriff Bo Tully:
- The Blight Way (February 2006)
- Avalanche (March 2007)
- The Double-Jack Murders (October 2009)
- The Huckleberry Murders (November 2010)
Humorous Books, Essays & Stories:
- A Fine and Pleasant Misery (1978)
- They Shoot Canoes, Don't They? (1981)
- Never Sniff a Gift Fish (1981)
- The Grasshopper Trap (1985)
- Rubber Legs and White Tail-Hairs (1987)
- The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw (1989)
- Real Ponies Don't Go Oink! (1991)
- The Good Samaritan Strikes Again (1992)
- How I Got This Way (1994)
- Never Cry "Arp!" (1997)
- Into the Twilight, Endlessing Grousing (1997)
- The Bear in the Attic (June 2002)
- Kerplunk (November 2007)
- Kid Camping from Aaaaiii! to Zip (1980; 1999)
- The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor (2000)
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- Official website for Patrick F. McManus
- Meritorious Mysteries comments on Patrick McManus
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Double-Jack Murders
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About the Author:
Patrick F. McManus was born in 1933 and raised on a farm in Sandpoint, Idaho, which is located in a valley between two ranges of the Rocky Mountains. His mother was a school teacher and his father died when he was only six-years-old. He was a poor student but loved to draw and paint, which he did constantly.
When he was still in high school, he started working summers on the dams that were being built on the Clark Fork River. He drove trucks, serviced heavy equipment, assisted drillers, ran a jack hammer, and one year worked as a highscaler, a job which consisted of dangling from a rope over a steep cliff and clearing away loose rock. He loved it. Then one of the other highscalers got killed when rock fell on him, and He decided he didn't love highscaling anymore and started thinking very seriously about going to college. He has saved enough money from construction work to get through his freshman year at Washington State College in Spokane, Washington. And this is when he discovered writing.
McManus writes mostly about his outdoor adventures from his childhood with semi-fictional characters such as his old woodsman mentor Rancid Crabtree, his childhood friends "Crazy" Eddie Muldoon and Retch Sweeney, and his dog Strange. He is also a regular contributor to Outdoor Life and Field & Stream.
He lives in Sandpoint, Idaho and Spokane, Washington.