Murder Mondays: Never Look Back in Texas by Russ Hall

Hello and happy Memorial Day Weekend to you all! While the hordes of freedom-loving ‘Mericans are out flooding the beaches and communal pools (ick!) without their face masks, I’ll just stay here behind my laptop to catch up on my blog. Maybe I’ll even get started on this dang book project while I’m hiding away from the world! Someone told me that Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls fans, you know who I’m talking about!) wrote her book by just plugging away one hour per day. That sounds doable, yeah? We shall see…

But I digress. I’m here to talk about Russ Hall’s latest Al Quinn mystery, Never Look Back in Texas. As expected, it was a super fast read filled with Texas shootouts, wise-cracking humor and a small dash of romance.

Disclaimer: I received a free advance copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. The book will be out on the Amazon shelves soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

The gist: Our crime-solving heroes Al and Fergie head out to the Texas ranchlands to rescue a dysfunctional family caught in the crosshairs of a Mexican drug war. They’re up against an armada of sadistic gangsters as they pursue their mission (suicide mission, really) to rescue a hostage. We’re talking machetes, machine guns, snipers and missiles!

What I liked: I’m not the biggest action-thriller fan, but these books are always a good break from the norm. Where this author shines is his knack for character development and punchy dialogue. Also, I love his descriptions of the various Texas settings—from the rolling hill country peppered with bluebonnets to the congested Austin cityscape to the long and lonely desert roads. I can’t wait to see where they will land in their next adventure—perhaps a fishing trip turned bad on the Texas Coast!

The setting: In this newest shoot-em-up adventure, we’re heading to the outskirts of Houston, where there’s nothing but scrubby bushes, sprawling cattle ranches and coyotes howling at the moon—yehaw! I’ve traveled these roads, so it was easy picturing Al and Fergie’s escapades in my mind.

What irked me: I’ll be honest, I was slightly annoyed by Fergie’s willingness to take on a case without discussing money matters ahead of time. In the real world, there ain’t no way anyone would throw themselves into the line of fire pro bono. I get that the victim was the son of her old high school frenemy, so there’s sort of a personal connection there. But really, she never really liked this person to begin with, so why should she risk everything to help her—and without any guaranteed pay? We’re talking blood-thirsty drug cartels here! And, of course, Al is ready to tag along on Fergie’s first case, but come on! I would’ve been out of there the second that motorcycle-riding lunatic assaulted me on the road. I get that there was an innocent little girl caught up in the middle of this, but couldn’t they have called in the authorities instead? How can two people take on an entire Mexican cartel? I’m just SO glad they didn’t drag Tanner into this one!

Overall: Aside from the suspension of belief, this is a quality read for anyone who enjoys a good Texas thriller. Fans of old school Rick Riordan are sure to be pleased!

CeeCee’s Book of the Month: Making it Rain in Texas


Well howdy there, folks! Are you ready for a rootin’ tootin’ good time deep in the heart of the Lone Star State? Well saddle on up to the couch, grab yourself a Shiner brewski and crack open (or tap your screen) this wild ride of a Texas mystery!


The gist: Book five of the Al Quinn mystery series is one heck of a roller coaster ride—chock full of gun-toting con artists and car chases across the scorching Hill Country landscape. In this latest installment, our hapless hero Al must track down a rather talented con artist, trap a goat-killing Chupacabra and sort out his feelings for Fergie (the love of his life who has been waiting too dang long for that ring).

What I liked: This book begins and ends with a bang—and I couldn’t rip through the chapters fast enough. I felt like I was right there with Al and Fergie while they were running from the bad guys—with a few touristy pit stops along the way. I especially liked the scene at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company—my most favorite touristy restaurant in Texas German country! As they say, write what you know, and Russ Hall knows the Texas Hill Country like the back of his hand. Interested in learning more about Texas Germans? Check out my magazine story here.

Thoughts on character development: I’ve been following this colorful cast of characters since To Hell and Gone in Texas (book one in the series), and they just keep getting more interesting. I like my protagonists a little on the messy side. They need to have some character flaws and terrible habits–because how else am I supposed to relate?! Needless to say, Al has issues, especially with his brother, Maury, who did a very bad deed back in the day– a real deal breaker, if you ask me. Yet despite his misgivings, I can’t help but to like him, dammit!  As the books progress, it’s interesting to see how their relationship evolves. Even more interesting is Al and Fergie’s blossoming romance. Will they get past their commitment issues and finally tie the knot? Guess we’ll have to keep reading to find out!

What needs work: More dog action, please! Tanner got very little airtime in this book and it would’ve been great if he could ride shotgun–or maybe just drive the car– in the next novel.  Also, I love that Fergie is a fearless, gun-toting Texas woman, but she does a whole lot of, “Where we going next, Al? What’s happening now?” Next time, let’s get her in the driver’s seat. I bet she’d take Al on one heck of a thrill ride!

A word of warning: Be sure to clear your schedule when you get down to the last few chapters. When it hits the fan, it REALLY hits the fan and you won’t be able to stop reading until the very end! Thanks, Mister Hall, for almost sending me and my palpitating heart to the ER! I’m exaggerating…but only slightly. 😉

Summed up: Another solid action thriller that is sure to please fans of old school Rick Riordan (Tres Navarre, I miss you!).