St. Martin's, Sept 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
Blanco County, Texas has had it shares of BUCK FEVER and BONE DRY lunacy as game warden John Marlin can testify, but the latest craziness makes Texas tall tales seem small. The locals believe that the vampiric chupacabra has killed an outsider due to a fang bite wound in his neck. John assumes a human killer committed the homicide and plans to prove that before hysteria turns everyone FLAT CRAZY.
The chupacabra tale leads the tabloid reporters to overrun Blanco County and interfere with John's inquiries because a fang related unsolved killing makes provocative headlines through innuendos. Seeing an opportunity to get rich, good ole boys Red O'Brien and Billy Don Craddock take advantage of the local fears, but wind up only messing up the investigative trail that John tracks involving phony buck trophies. Adding to the confusion is the invasion of the Chinese dwarfs from Hollywood as Wang, Hung, Lo, etc. are making a film and wrecking clues. To John, all this is another “normal” investigation unlike those CSI types working pristine crime shows.
This third wacky Blanco County mystery is as crazy and fun as its predecessors are (kind of like moving those Southern Florida wild tales to Texas). Once again John plays straight man to a cast of eccentrics and wacko opportunists, who are over the edge into slapstick at times. Though readers know who the killer is and why from almost the start, the fun is observing John work through the lunacy, trampled evidence, and the unintended red herrings caused by nutty secondary characters to try to solve the case. Ben Rehder continues to display a unique freshness with his marvelous mirthful Marlin mysteries.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner