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!

Four Paws Up to ‘Throw the Texas Dog a Bone’

Al Quinn is a man after my own heart. He’s a dog rescuer, a deer lover and an ace detective to boot! He captured my heart in the opening chapter when he swooped up a condemned shelter dog while investigating a crime scene. Needless to say, Al earned some major cool points right from the get-go.

Though this is a hardboiled Texas mystery, Al is anything but a puffed out gun-toting good ol’ boy. At home, he knows the women rule the roost, especially his main squeeze, Fergie. I say main squeeze, due to his….shall we say… alternative lifestyle. He has a couple of squeezes, per say, in his love-triangle household. The swinging lifestyle isn’t my cup of tea but it made for an interesting subplot.

But I digress. Let’s get down to the mystery, shall we? Our leading man is a retired detective who refuses to start living the sweet life in an RV, so he spends the majority of his free time consulting at crime scenes. This time around, he’s responding to a puzzling scene at the local animal shelter, where human remains are found in the incinerator.With his team of sidekicks—including Tanner, his loyal rescue pup, and a cantankerous rookie detective—Al is hot on a trail that leads to Austin’s seedy underbelly of human trafficking, a burglary ring and rural bordellos. I’ll stop right here before I reveal too much!

I will say that this Al Quinn mystery series is a hidden gem. These books fill the void that Rick Riordan left behind when he stopped writing Austin-based mysteries to become a world-famous children’s fantasy author. Being a native Austinite, I love how the author gave his readers a sense of place in a city that is a character in its own right. Through his atmospheric descriptions, I could picture myself at Al’s lake-front homestead on the rural outskirts of the city. I felt like I was riding in the backseat of Cam’s cruiser as she and Al drove along the perennially congested highway to interrogate suspects. We went on some wild rides together (in my head) and I can’t wait for the next one!

As for Cam, Al’s reluctant partner, talk about a complicated character! Trust me, you’re going to loathe her at first, but then you’ll see there’s many layers to that onion. This is a highly character-driven mystery that just keeps getting better with every book. Hats off to Russ Hall for delivering another quality Texified mystery. May I suggest a spinoff narrated by none other than little Tanner? How fun would that be!?

Go here to read my review of Al Quinn’s previous adventure in To Hell and Gone in Texas.