Patrick McManus is a well known outdoors-man, writer and columnist. He is famous for his laugh inducing accounts of life in the great outdoors for magazines like Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. And his collections of columns have been New York Times bestsellers.
I only know about Patrick F. McManus, however, through word of mouth. I haven’t read any of his work, but my wife and in-laws are all big fans. Having lived in the Northwoods they find his style of writing familiar and highly entertaining. So when I got a copy of The Blight Way, the first book in a new mystery series, I grabbed it away from my wife and started reading.
I am glad I did. The Blight Way is a funny, fast paced small town mystery. It is set in Blight County Idaho, hence the title, and features Sheriff Bo Tully. The Tully family have been sheriffs in Blight County for decades. Now being sheriff in Blight usually involves breaking up bar room brawls and feuds between neighbors and doesn’t require a great deal of sophistication or familiarity with the niceties of the law. And that is just fine with the Tully’s. But when a stranger in a fancy pinstripe suite is found dead on a barbed wire fence, the town’s gossip mill is working overtime and Tully knows he has a challenge on his hands.
Bo puts everything he’s got into getting to the bottom of it, which includes “Lurch” the crime scene expert; Dave the self-proclaimed Indian tracker and owner of Dave’s House of Fry; Susan Parker the attractive new medical examiner; and Bo’s seventy year old father, and former sheriff, Pap. After checking out the crime scene the team realizes that someone set up a high powered ambush, but things didn’t go quite as planned. It doesn’t take too long for Bo and Pap to figure out that this isn’t your normal Blight County crime. Problem is the townspeople don’t seem real eager to talk and clues are scarce.
In The Blight Way McManus has created a promising start to a new mystery series. McManus brings his wry humor and his obvious fondness for rural America and combines it with a clever plot and a unique lead character.
Bo Tully may be a County Sheriff, with all the familiarity with violence and the dark side of humanity that entails, but he is also a rather talented watercolorist who hasn’t quite figured out how to stay in a relationship since his wife died tragically young. That doesn’t mean he has given up trying, heck he will even check out a Danielle Steele novel if he thinks it will help. And the new medical examiner is at the top of the list.
Not surprisingly given his background, McManus captures the close knit, but at times suffocating, nature of small towns and the unique characters that inhabit the rural west. When you combine the all of these ingredients you have first rate entertainment. This may be his first crack at writing a mystery, but he is no stranger to good writing. McManus keeps the reader guessing while still taking time to develop the characters. The pacing is good, not too fast or too slow.
Obviously, fans of McManus will want to pick up his latest, but those who simply enjoy a good mystery with a sense of humor will also want to check out The Blight Way. Like all good books, it will leave them wanting more.