Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two Bits Four Bits / Mark Cotton

Genre: Mystery

Approximate net words: 55-60,000 words

Availability Kindle:  YES      Nook: YES           DTB: YES


Mark Cotton was born in Texas and has lived most of his life in South Eastern New Mexico. This area of New Mexico and the area of West Texas around Midland and Odessa make up the oil-rich Permian Basin. Two Bits Four Bits, Cotton’s first novel, takes place in this same area of Texas. (For fans of the movie and TV show Friday Night Lights, this is where the book, a true story, these are based on took place as well.)


When Buddy Griffin visits his fictional West Texas hometown of Elmore, TX, he's planning a short stay. Just long enough to attend his high school reunion and get the estate of his recently deceased parents in order. Hopefully the recently retired homicide detective will have a chance to reflect on what he wants in the next phase of his life. Then the president of the local bank and husband of his high school sweetheart is murdered and his plans change. Maybe he's found his next vocation and the world's newest private detective series is being born.


It could be said that Two Bits Four Bits fits a formula for this type novel. We have the typical, some might say clichéd, characters. The potential love interest. The ex-hooker. The asshole cop who's also working the case. Both you and Buddy will have a decent idea of whodunit and why well before the end. But formula doesn't always mean bad. Some formulas become that way because they're what works. If the characters are well drawn and the story is good the book will be too. That's the case here.

Several things help this book rise above the pack. Buddy is likable. You want to see him succeed. His relationship with best friend Ray, always trash talking and messing with each other, is one most guys will understand and appreciate. His portrayal of the oil-patch towns of West Texas is well done and, at least for someone who hasn't been there, seems accurate. The story is compelling and despite knowing where it's going you keep reading because you care about the details.


Fans of Texas music will also have fun catching the references to their favorite musicians. I'll give Mark Cotton bonus points if he mentions Kelly Willis or anyone with the last name Robison in the follow up.

Ranking: ****4 Stars

No comments: