Frederick Ramsay, Author . Poisoned Pen $24.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-59058-122-3

Small-town sheriffs come in all shapes and sizes, but Ike Schwartz, who dominates Ramsay's solid debut, is both engaging and extravagantly overqualified for the job. Ike retreats to his hometown of Picketsville, Va., and wins the job of sheriff after a personal disaster in a botched CIA operation. In quiet Picketsville, Ike's biggest worries are domestic squabbles, speeding tickets and an occasional problem with a Callend College student. It's Callend's superb art collection, valued at half a billion dollars and protected by a state-of-the-art security system, that changes all that. Funded by terrorists, and using a disaffected federal agent, mobsters plan to hijack the collection and hold it for ransom. The smoothly planned operation goes off with several hitches, including a killing and the taking of hostages. Callend president Ruth Harris, who believes Ike to be the stereotypical small-town sheriff, is screaming for "higher" authorities to take charge. Laid-back but decisive, Ike does that, calling on his experience, his country roots and old allies as he matches wits with the savvy professionals who committed the crime. While Ike emerges as the most fully developed character, several secondary characters stand out as well, as Ramsay nicely mixes town and gown, sophisticates and rustics, thugs and masterminds. Ike Schwartz seems destined for a bright future. (July 19)

Reviewed on: 06/21/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Open Ebook - 978-1-4587-1085-7
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Paperback - 249 pages - 978-1-59058-285-5
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