Frederick Ramsay's Ike Schwartz mysteries are so meaty that I discover something else in each new book in this series. Buffalo Mountain, the third book, is no exception.
It's not even winter yet in the Shenandoah Valley, but the weather is threatening, and the residents aren't well-prepared for snow. Sheriff Ike Schwartz' small department isn't well-prepared for their latest crime. When Deputy Sheriff Whaite Billingsly calls in that he found a body with identification as Randall Harris, it's one thing, possibly an ongoing feud between two mountain families. But, when Sheriff Ike recognizes the body as a former Russian spy, suddenly it's not only a murder case. It's an investigation that involves the CIA, and other unnamed national agencies. Even so, Whaite heads to his childhood home in Floyd County, looking for a local killer from the mountains.
Ramsay continues to develop the story of Picketsville, Sheriff Ike Schwartz, and his department. As Ike's relationship with Ruth Harris, president of Callend College, continues to develop, it's just one indication of the bad blood between "town and gown" in Picketsville. The faculty doesn't trust Ike, and the townspeople are suspicious of anyone associated with the university. Neither Ike nor Ruth are sure where their relationship is going, but Ike's dying mother has some ideas.
Although these are Ike Schwartz mysteries, after the first book that introduced him, each book highlights different members of the department. In this one, Whaite Billingsly, a deputy who left behind his mountain upbringing, finds himself trying to fit in to solve a crime. Yet Ramsay is well-aware the department doesn't investigate in a vacuum, and he includes characters readers will recognize from previous books. Although anyone could read these books without reading the previous ones, there is added pleasure in catching up with the sheriff's staff and the townspeople we've met before.
I'm beginning to look forward to Ramsay's return to the Shenandoah Valley, and Sheriff Ike Schwartz. These are solid traditional mysteries, with an intelligent investigator. The fifth book, Choker, is due out in June. I can't wait!
Frederick Ramsay's website is www.frederickramsay.com
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Buffalo Mountain by Frederic Ramsay. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007. ISBN 9781590583692 (hardcover), 257p.