Western Mystery

Early’s Fall by Jerry Peterson

Set just after the conclusion of WWII in a small town in Kansas, this (first in a series, I hope) mystery novel features a sheriff who, just before enlisting and going off to war, had been a hobo riding the rails. Interesting! Especially since at this stage in his life, James “Cactus” Early is the picture of respectability: he holds a position of responsibility in the county, is well-regarded professionally, is fairly newly married, and he and his wife are expecting their first child.

This mystery novel has the feel of a Western—as many mysteries actually do, if you move their setting to the West. But here the setting is truly western, a fact that is re-enforced by the book’s opening scene: a bank robbery committed by a criminal who escapes on horseback. Of course, for this to be a mystery novel, there also is a murder—of a woman who teaches at the local school alongside Early’s wife. And the burglary and murder are just the kicking-off points of a series of events that eventually change Sheriff Early’s life.

One thing to like: President Truman has a cameo in this book. I adore Truman, and I think the author thinks he’s OK, too.

And, one more thing: I really like the author’s name.