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by James Hime
St Martin's Minotaur, October 2004
320 pages
ISBN: 0312331363

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James Hime was nominated for an Edgar for his first novel, THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE, which featured a retired Texas Ranger named Jeremiah Spur and Deputy Sheriff Clyde Thomas. Spur and Thomas return in the second entry in the series, and this time the plot is even more complicated.

The book opens with the murder of a small-time drug dealer in the tiny town in Washington County, Texas, and Deputy Clyde Thomas is called to investigate. At the same time, Jeremiah Spur receives a visit from a CIA agent who summons him from retirement to find an accountant who has gone missing with ten million dollars belonging to a former CIA operative who now operates a billion dollar real estate empire. As if that weren't enough action to hang a story on, these cases converge with the story of a boy who lost his father to the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

The plot careens through short chapters set in Texas, Mexico, and Vienna as Spur and Thomas chase what seems to be a territory battle between drug lords. Hime is a master at sustaining suspense and the pages fly until the intrepid duo is forced to play a sinister game with a Mexican drug cartel. There's a lot of musing in this book about the relationship between fathers and sons, the nature of revenge, and, of course, what people will do because of greed.

Hime writes prose as precise and clean as a surgical instrument. Each of the large cast is well-characterized, and it's easy to keep the three converging story lines straight. SCARED MONEY is certainly better than most of the mysteries you'll pick up, and yet I found the book disappointing. The plot is so preposterous that I found it hard to suspend disbelief, even though I desperately wanted to.

Governments, drug cartels, and those who do their bidding seemed way too eager to make exceptions, waive procedures, and even provide security for Spur, which diminished him as a character. He became a curious Superman figure to his antagonist's Lex Luther - both caricatures of the real characters they might have been. By stretching his credibility in this way, the author lost the authority he more than earned with his amazing prose. I'm hoping that the next time I meet Jeremiah Spur he'll encounter obstacles that are worthy of his character instead of papier mache.

Reviewed by Carroll Johnson, October 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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