“The Hanging of Samuel Ash” by Sheldon Russell (Minotaur Books, 310 pages, in stores)
Sheldon Russell, an Oklahoma writer who is earning rave reviews from such publications as The New York Times, has written another exceptional mystery in “The Hanging of Samuel Ash.”
Russell's talent shines in the latest installment of his Hook Runyon mystery series, set in the Southwest shortly after World War II. The Samuel Ash story focuses on the hanging of a young man from a railroad signal.
Things — and people — are not always what they seem. Runyon, a railroad bull (detective), discovers this as he sets out to identify the dead man in hopes of seeing he gets a proper burial. After all, a bronze hero's medal on the body suggests the young man deserves more than a pauper's grave.
Runyon, who has only one arm, is worldly wise, although schooling is not prominent in his background. He can catch a moving train with that single arm and then depart the same way.
His dog Mixer shows much spunk and adds sparkle to the story. Assorted other characters show the depth of the author's imagination.
Hook can fight with the best and survive odd hardships and then move on to spend spare time collecting rare books. Fearless, he hunts crooks and killers for scant pay and a bed in a caboose.
Russell, retired as a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, is so talented in scene-setting and in building characters that each of the book's 42 chapters is educational as well as enjoyable. He can make the break of day a delight and can make the reader hungry when a meal is described.
— Dennie Hall, for The Oklahoman