Nights of the Red Moon
by Milton T. Burton
Cover Artist: Photo: Dee Ann Kincke
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312648008
Date: 07 December 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The crime rate increases as a bloody moon and a heat wave plague the citizens of Sequoya. Most of the crimes involve domestic abuse; however, a series of drug-related murders is triggered by the shooting of the preacher's adulterous, pill-popping wife, Amanda Twiller, whose corpse is dumped on her front lawn. Bo Handel, Sheriff of Caddo County, teams with FBI Agent Muldoon Hotchkiss to uncover the murderer in one of the most corrupted small towns in central East Texas.
Wow! How can so much corruption and mayhem fit into one novel? Milton T. Burton's Nights of the Red Moon is an outstanding example of Texas noir. Burton introduces the reader to a small town where the citizens are acting stranger than normal. It must be the moon; not only is it full but it is bloody red and Indian legend claims that it heralds a season of madness and death.
The wise cracking Sheriff Handel will make readers howl with laughter. The non-stop violence as suspects are eliminated by shotgun blasts will make readers shudder with fear and awe. Despite the advancement of modern technology, I felt as though Sequoya still existed in the Old West; perhaps this is characteristic of a true Texas noir. This novel contains every vice, secret sin and illegal practice imaginable: cocaine trafficking, interstate gambling, prostitution, adultery and homosexuality, just to name a few.
Sequoya also contains crooked politicians, New Orleans mobsters, Hoodoo practitioners and Southern Baptists. The most hilarious character is the smart-alecky, wise cracking Sheriff Handel who personally narrates this bizarre tale. For example, he is questioning a dope head informant, Danny Kettle, who complains he hasn't seen his pet Chihuahua, Little Trixie, since yesterday. Handel tells him the dog has been dead for over two years but he should smoke a few more joints and she'll return.
The lovable, physically fit sixty-two-year-old sheriff was a music major in college but was forced to drop out when a heart attack claimed his father; he had to manage the family business while taking care of his invalid mother who suffered with multiple sclerosis. This man, who can play classical music on a baby grand piano, has a heart of gold, but he can be cruel and gruff when interrogating someone. He’s a good bluffer. For example, he is trying to convince a pretty young girl, Trina Newland, to disclose her boyfriend‘s hiding place. She finally caves in after he describes to her in nauseating detail what the bull dykes will do to her in the women's unit at Mountain View. Destined to become a classic speech, his description made me howl with laughter.
Don't worry, Nights of the Red Moon is not all about cheating on one's spouse, abusing hallucinogenic drugs and shooting lowlife mobsters. Though I wouldn't have minded if it was. There is some romance and paternal love. Sheriff Handel is secretly having a romantic tryst with one of his deputies, a female. The FBI agent, Hotchkiss, develops an infatuation with another deputy, also a female. Handel is a father figure to his young niece, Sheila Warbeck, who is the star reporter for the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel.
Unlike the drought that threatens Sequoya, Nights of the Red Moon is never dry. The action and drama flow nonstop. I am now a certified fan of Milton T. Burton. Hopefully, he is working on a sequel; if not, another novel of small town Texas noir will suffice. If you enjoy reading about law enforcement officers fighting crime in their small towns, then I highly recommend reading the following: Todd Ritter's Death Notice, Ken Mercer's Slow Fire and Wallace Stroby's Gone 'til November.