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by Elizabeth Dearl

Paperback - 288 pages (May 2000)
Avid Press, LLC; ISBN: 1929613334 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.53 x 6.68 x 4.23

Reviewed by Karen Meek

Following the death of her mother, mystery writer Taylor Madison thought she was an orphan. Her mother had never told her who her father was and had brought her up alone. However Taylor discovers from her mother's papers, that her mother had a younger sister in Perdue, Texas. With her best friend, her pet ferret Hazel, in tow, Taylor sets out from Houston to ask her aunt Tessa about the identity of her father.

On the outskirts of Perdue, Taylor's Volkswagen goes off the road when she brakes to avoid a rattlesnake. She walks into town and into the hardware store where the owner takes her under his wing. He arranges for her car to be rescued and for Sheriff Crawford to give her a ride to her aunt's. However at her aunt's, all does not go to plan as Tessa ejects her from her home. Bewildered, Taylor vows to stay as long as it takes to get the information she seeks. The Sheriff arranges accommodation for her, a small room above the hardware store and the next morning gives her the job of temporary deputy, so she can assist in the upcoming rattlesnake festival.

Taylor is an instant hit with the rest of the police force; dispatcher Billy and fellow deputies Cal and Les, the latter being rivals for the job of sheriff when Crawford retires later that year. Taylor and Cal get on well and he takes her around the festival where she gets to eat fried snake and watch snakes being milked for their venom. The next morning however, being the only deputy Billy can find, Taylor is sent to attend an unexpected death and though it appears to be an accidental death by snake bite, it's not long before Taylor reveals her suspicions of murder.

I loved the heroine in DIAMONDBACK. Taylor Madison is likeable, smart, curious and fun and Hazel is an adorable furry friend. The author brings the town and inhabitants of Perdue to life and unobtrusively imparts adequate information on rattlesnakes so that Taylor and the reader have all the clues to solve the case. In fact about two thirds of the way through, it becomes obvious who the murderer is and why, but it's an enjoyable ride along with Taylor and the inhabitants of Perdue. It makes a change to read about a small town that does welcome strangers. I'm itching to start the second book, TWICE DEAD.

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