Here's where I give my pitch for a mystery author who should be better-known than he is. Todd Ritter writes some of the most interesting mysteries out there. They feature a small-town police chief struggling with the violent crimes that are so unexpected in her town. Ritter's mysteries all have twists in them, unexpected turns at the end, but perfect turns. Devil's Night, the third in the series, is just as intriguing as either of the earlier ones. So, if I tell you to go back and pick up his first one, Death Notice, and follow it up with Bad Moon, one of my favorite books of 2011, I hope you take my word for it. These traditional mysteries feature a small town knocked on its heels by evil. But, each time, a strong, scared police chief, with help from friends, picks the town up again by finding a killer.
Kat Campbell is police chief in Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania, and she's been through some rough times in the last year or so. Now, in an exhausting twenty-four-hour period, she has to deal with "fires and corpses and skeletons hidden beneath the floor."
It's 1 a.m. when Kat is awakened by sirens. The town's history is up in flames in the form of the Perry Hollow Historical Society and Exhibition Hall, the museum. But, suspected arson isn't the worst of it. When Kat enters the building to try to save historical artifacts, she finds the body of the president of the historical society. It's only later that she learns the murder victim was protecting a trunk with a skeleton in it. And, written on the victim's hand are the words, "This is just the first."
The first murder? The first fire? Kat doesn't have a long time to find answers. As fires break out, she's afraid vigilantes will start looking for the culprit. She's happy to have the assistance of two friends from previous cases, a cop turned private detective, and her friend, Henry Goll, who had disappeared earlier, only to return as a reporter covering a local story for an Italian newspaper. A small town cop needs friends to lean on, but she still has to rely on her own courage and intelligence.
Kat Campbell is a fascinating character. She's the daughter of a former police chief in Perry Hollow. She's a single mother whose wonderful son, James, has Down syndrome. And, Ritter is careful to point out the difficulties of a single mom who is also the police chief. It's Kat's personal life that creates the realistic tone of these stories. Then, she's surrounded by a wonderful cast of wounded characters, who manage to work with her to defeat evil. And, the crimes in Perry Hollow are gritty ones, but there's nothing pretty about murder.
Devil's Night is a compelling mystery. But, trust me when I say you should go back and start with Death Notice. Todd Ritter's Perry Hollow may suffer from unusual crimes. But, once you've read that first book, you'll want to continue with Police Chief Kat Campbell, and her friends. Ritter's books are traditional mysteries set in a small town, with a police chief trying to right an upside-down world. As I said, a little gritty. No one does it better. Discover Todd Ritter's Perry Hollow and Kat Campbell. I don't think you'll regret it.
Todd Ritter's website is www.toddritteronline.com
Devil's Night by Todd Ritter. Minotaur Books. 2013. ISBN 9781250028532 (hardcover), 340p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.