Book review: 'Death on the Greasy Grass' a skimmer

Published: Saturday, Sept. 28 2013 2:00 p.m. MDT

"DEATH ON GREASY GRASS," by C.M. Wendelboe, Berkley Prime Crime, $16, 373 pages (f)

There are surely people who will like "Death on the Greasy Grass" by C.M. Wendelboe, a retired law officer and Marine.

It comes with a Western flair, plenty of details about the cowboy life and a murder mystery to solve based on a missing historical journal. FBI agent Manny Tanno takes a much-needed vacation and ends up on the site of Battle of Little Big Horn when a reenactor is killed

It's obviously well-researched (Wendelboe worked in South Dakota towns bordering three Indian reservations) and plotted out with care, kind of like a Tony Hillerman novel in that it deals with the Indian culture and Western life.

There are some tender moments, such as when a character named Broken Rib works out a four-pony trade for his pregnant daughter's hand that will save her reputation and marry her to a good man.

It's also clear that the author understands the differences between the Indian tribes and the prejudices that white men still harbor: "Mannyhad heard comments like that all his life: people surprised that an Indian drove a decent car or wore neat clothes or shopped in public with children that were clean and well-behaved."

But it's a tough read given the language and the cynical attitudes of the main characters. There's plenty of bathroom talk.

There's also some pretty graphic descriptions of things like scalping a man and and interview with Itchy, a drug addict in gross physical condition who scratches his open sores while he talks.

It distracts from a rather intriguing mystery of "Death on the Greasy Grass" that leaves one wondering what happened right up until the end.

Here's a book written for readers with a taste for a colorful, gutsy story.

For those with more sensitive minds and dispositions, it's better left unopened on the shelf.

If you go ...

What: C.M. Wendelboe book signing

When: Saturday, Oct. 5, 4 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, www.spiritroadmysteries.com

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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