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By James Hime

St. Martinís Minotaur Press, 2004 ($6.99)
ISBN: 0312998201

Reviewed by Rick McMahan

Have you ever read an author whose style of writing jars you? Usually, if an authorís style or voice doesnít immediately "click" with me, I put the book down. James Himeís writing style jars my reading "ear." He writes in present tense, which I usually find very annoying. Having said that, I have to say Himeís writing is outstanding. I mean, if the guy "jars" someone and still hooks them as a reader and is able to deliver a good story, then the author has succeeded in his job. I almost put down James Himeís THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE, and I even laid it on a table a few times. However, the story and characters had taken hold of me. Once, I got past the first dozen pages and became accustomed to the "present tense" writing, I was hard pressed to put the book down.

The plot of THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE is simple. In small town Brenham, Texas, more than a dozen years before, a wild-young woman, Sissy Fletcher, disappeared. Now, her bones have been unearthed in a field outside of town. The Sheriff of the small department has no experience in handling homicides, so he asks the recently retired Texas Ranger Jeremiah Spur to help on the investigation. Spur has his own issues, namely his only daughter is dying of cancer, and his wife is immersed in a bottle most days. Yet, Spur feels the calling to find out what happened to Sissy Fletcher, the wild preacherís daughter.

Now, add to the mix a host of other characters and agendas. ThereĎs Deputy Clyde Thomas, a black man in rural Texas with a chip on his shoulder and heís one of the best police officers the Sheriff has. Thereís Sissyís brother, a man with a bent-look on the world and a hate for the government that he plans to put into action. Plus, why do prominent people in the small town want the "problem" of Sissy Fletcher to go away?

The only flaws I saw in the book were that the Sheriff becomes almost a caricature of the fat, inept lawman and Clyde Thomas sometimes takes the "angry black man" view to an extreme in some scenes. However, Thomas is a very interesting and complicated character.

By far, hands down, Jeremiah Spur moves the book. Though Clyde Thomas is interesting in his own right, Jeremiah Spur is a complicated character. He has simple beliefs, but to stay true to those beliefs in a complex world is very hard. Heís a man whoís given decades of his life to fighting crime as a Texas Ranger, even at the expense of his family life. Now, he should be settling into sunset years, enjoying his family and retirement, but his family is in turmoil. Yet, Jeremiah Spur has been a man do the right thing, no matter what and it shows in his character.

James Hime is an excellent story teller. He shows that crime and mystery can happen in small towns and be just as exciting as any LA or New York setting, so pick up THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE.

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