cover image The Texas Capitol Murders

The Texas Capitol Murders

Bill Crider. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (329pp) ISBN 978-0-312-07093-9

The neatly detailed setup, twisting plot and colorful cast of characters in Crider's latest mystery (after Blood Marks ) will keep readers riveted, so it's too bad that the ending reveals a rather pallid villain. A Mexican-American civil servant named Ramona Gonzalez, rumored to be promiscuous and talkative, is found strangled in an Austin, Tex., dumpster. It turns out that Gonzalez was pregnant and had ties to a powerful state senator, his bisexual chief aide and others. The capital city is thrown into turmoil when another body is found the next day. Assigned to the case by the dotty, paranoid governor, Texas Ranger Ray Hartnett must investigate a varied assortment of suspects, ranging from right-to-lifers to political time-servers, naive coed Capitol guides to powerful lobbyists. There's also a nice subplot of a budding affair between middle-aged Hartnett and a civil servant. Crider, who writes the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and Professor Carl Burns series, demonstrates an insider's thoroughgoing knowledge of Texas politics. (Feb.)