Thursday, 23 August 2012

#OBSummer #Books - Ford 99 - Hot Enough to Kill

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Genre - Mystery / Female Sleuth / Humourous 
Rating - PG13 
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I love the idea of the "page 99 test." And if you're in a store with the book in hand, it works great. Not so great when you're staring at a digital file with page numbers that are moving targets. Further complicating matters was having various versions of the book--the original paperback and ebook revised editions.
So, I went to the original print version and found the page, then hopped over to the current ebook and copied from that--the best of both page 99 worlds. It worked out just fine, because it plops you right into a typical--if comparatively tame--bit of Kickapoo craziness.
A little background first. Hot Enough to Kill was originally published in September 1999, and had a nice review in Redbook in October. Yes, it was quite a surprise! The book was also featured in a lot of high-profile publications and was even selected to be included in the University of Texas Press' Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction just a few years ago. The second book in the series, Dead Man Falls, won a literary award. Jolene has been good to me!
I love these characters. They're like close friends. They're more real to me than most sane people would admit. Since I’m not, I'll also admit that just before my mom passed, I'd gone back to Texas for a visit and we were sitting in the Dairy Queen, and I caught myself watching the door, wondering when my characters were going to walk in. I laughed when I realized what I was doing, but sometimes they are that real to me.
So, here's the setup for the book:
Jolene's back in her old hometown because her mother's boyfriend--the still-married mayor--has been murdered, and Mother Dearest is in jail because of it. Turns out the mayor hadn't been quite as divorced as he'd led Lucille to believe, and that's only the tip of the iceberg on his lies and antics. There's no shortage of people who had reason to want the mayor dead, but bullets are still flying, and a lot of them are hitting way too close to home.
Of course, there's the fun part of Jolene reconnecting with her old high school sweetheart, Sheriff Jerry Don Parker, and the not so fun part that his gorgeous ex-wife still seems to be in love with him, only she also has another love interest too. And then there's that pesky problem with Bible-wielding Bony Butt, a problem with the ATF and an ill-advised shopping trip to Bud's Bait and Beer.
In the scene on page 99, Jolene and her mother have been in protective custody and confined to Lucille's house to attempt to keep them out of the line of fire. However, they've managed to talk the deputy into taking them on an unauthorized trip to the Dairy Queen to get chicken baskets and iced tea. Deputy Leroy Harper has wound up taking over as acting sheriff. Not because he was the best man for the job, but because his uncle is a county commissioner. Leroy's still holding a grudge over Jolene rejecting him in high school and things are a little strained between them. Actually, in this little snippet, they seem almost civil.
* * * * *
"Something's up," I said to Mother. "Leroy's back."
We watched as Leroy talked and pointed, and the deputy took notes, shook his head, nodded and made more notes.
"He's looking right in here at us and pointing," Mother said. "I don't like it."
I didn't like it either. But I liked the idea of going outside with a bull's-eye on my forehead to get the scoop a whole lot less. "Let's just stay put and see what happens."
"You think there's been another shooting?" Mother asked, echoing my own thoughts.
Before I could give a vague non-answer, Leroy marched back inside the DQ, his big arms waving and his face flushed. "Relax, people. Looks like this thing is all but over. We got us a suspect in custody."
"That was fast," I muttered, glancing at Lucille.
The DQ turned into a buzzing beehive of chatter. Sighs of relief mixed with various versions of "I wonder who it is" and "It must be so and so."
I wondered too, of course, but I also wondered why the big-shot acting sheriff wasn't still on the scene, making a nuisance of himself. Since he was headed our way, I'd be asking. "So, Leroy, how did all this go down? Psychic revelation, random house-to-house search, what? And why aren't you still on the scene running the show?"
Leroy frowned then puffed out his chest. "Don't you be worrying about how I knew what, or where I went. I told you I give the orders around here."
Yes, that much was nauseatingly clear. "So, I'm guessing you found the murder weapon."
"Yes, ma'am, Miss Hotshot Know-it-all, we sure did. We found a shotgun in the closet, and that was just the beginning." Leroy puffed up even more. "They'll be working this for days. Yep, this thing is big—really big."
"Minor detail here, Leroy, but there's probably a shotgun in the closet of every male in this county, maybe even the state. Don't you think you're jumping the gun a little? No pun intended."
He looked down his nose at me. "We're not worried about quail and dove hunters, Jolene," he said, as if talking to an imbecile. "We had good reason to search the house, and it just broke wide open from there. I'd known all along what was going on out there, and this just proves it. It's big, just like I said."
"Big. Really big. Got it."
* * * * *
And that's a quick peek into life in the little spot on a Texas highway called Kickapoo. Did I mention that a really big catfish also has a starring role?
* * * * *
Paula Boyd is a five-time award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. To read samples from her Jolene Jackson Mystery Series, visit She also writes as Paula Renaye, and her new book, Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation, is in neighborhood and online bookstores.

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