Book Review: Five Card Murder by Bruce Hammack

Five Card Murder   
A Smiley and McBlythe Mystery #6   
Bruce Hammack
Jubilee Publishing, March 2021
ISBN 978-1-7350302-9-6
Trade Paperback

Greed, gambling, murder, and sibling rivalry all are whisked into a savory stew of many questions and few obvious answers for detectives Steve Smiley and Heather McBlythe. They are an interesting pair who will almost instantly draw in most readers. Heather is a high-level investment player for whom the intrigue of gambling isn’t played out at the poker table. Rather, she buys and sells in the corporate jungle. Her partner in crime solving is a blind former cop who uses his blindness to enhance his detecting skills.

The plot of this Texas mystery begins when Steve agrees to act as executor for the will of an East Texas rancher, Charley Voss. A
handwritten will arrives in the mail and the game is on. Charley’s body is found in his barn with nearly no clues as to his death. His only employee, Hector DeLeon and Charley’s son, Rance, found Charley’s body. Meanwhile Steve and Heather fly out to the Texas resort town of Llano to service Charlie’s will and delve into the murder. A second suspicious death complicates the picture and of course affects provisions of Charlie’s bequests.

The rural landscape becomes an integral well-used element of the story, the pace picks up as more and more characters, on both sides of the law, become enmeshed in a tricky narrative and a couple of important side issues help flesh out our main characters.

This is a complicated story with several branches, all carefully resolved by the author without rushing. I fully enjoyed learning about Heather although at times her parental relationships seemed to dominate too much of the narrative. A keen-eyed line editor would improve the overall impression of the novel, but that detracts little from a strong narrative.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2021.
Traces, Grand Lac, Sins of Edom, Red Sky.