Book Review: Readings

Blanco County's crime-solving game warden John Marlin is back.


Holy Moly

by Ben Rehder
St. Martin's Minotaur, 352 pp., $24.95

Ben Rehder's crime-solving game warden John Marlin is back, and he's sure got his hands full this time out. A backhoe driver has been murdered with a bow and arrow, a priceless dinosaur fossil is missing, a deer rancher is selling breeding stock of questionable origin, and someone is attempting to sabotage Marlin's upcoming wedding to lady-love Nicole Brooks. The arrival of televangelist Peter Boothe in Blanco County sets the plot action in motion in Hill Country author Rehder's newest mystery, Holy Moly. The money-grubbing "pastorpreneur" plans to build a huge religious center in rural Blanco County, to more effectively fleece potential members of his flock from the nearby cities of Austin and San Antonio. The construction project hits a snag when backhoe operator Hollis Farley turns up dead. Marlin and Sheriff Bobby Garza soon discover that Farley had unearthed a rare dinosaur fossil which has since disappeared, and the list of possible murder suspects is intertwined with the list of folks who want to destroy the fossil, preserve it for scientific study, or sell it to the highest bidder. The wacky characters involved in the fossil caper are among some of Rehder's best: Pastor Pete; his oversexed wife, Vanessa; and their con-artist minion, Alex Pringle; a Houston trust-fund baby and fossil collector with bizarre sexual proclivities and his former classmate, a Pam-huffing cyber-geek called Snake; the UT paleontology professor with a dark secret; and that lovable miscreant Billy Don Craddick, who evolves from recliner-bound dullard to shy romantic leading man while comforting Hollis Farley's grieving sister. Early on, Sheriff Garza poses the question: "Why can't we have a normal murder around here? Out here, people gotta get weird?" The short answer, of course, is that weird and wickedly funny is what Rehder does best. And if the discovery of dinosaur fossils can protect the Texas Hill Country from rapacious development, here's hoping there are some out there just waiting to be discovered.

Ben Rehder will appear at Barnes & Noble Sunset Valley (5601 Brodie Ln.) on Tuesday, June 17, at 7pm.

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