The Obituary: A Winchester Bullet Mystery - Ron Franscell Morgan fled from Chicago following the death of his young son from leukemia. He had little else to want but to start a small town newspaper in Winchester, his childhood home, a town filled with “peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies,” with his wife, Claire, and now a new son, Colter. A forensic team, headed by Dr. Cowper, has come to town to examine the remains of an old women, ostensibly Etta Place, the girl friend of the infamous Sundance Kid. When they open the casket, however, the discover a headless male corpse, clearly murdered. How could he tell the skeletal remains were that of a male? “Dr. Cowper slipped a ballpoint pen from his breast pocket and kneeled beside the grim box. The sheriff and the coroner bent over for an anatomy lesson from one of America’s most brilliant forensic anthropologists. Even Morgan leaned closer. “Gentlemen,” Dr. Cowper said, directing their rapt attention to a leathery flap near the corpse’s pelvis, “this is a penis.” “

That scene gives you a feel for the sardonic nature of this small town mystery populated with characters like rancher Ray, who believed state road signs bore secret codes to tell New World Order tank squadrons who owned guns. He believed jet contrails in the sky were secret government plots to control population and inoculate Americans against their wills with anthrax and other strange diseases. He believed, because he’d once heard it on Art Bell’s late-night radio talk show, that Thomas Pynchon and J.D. Salinger were the same person, although he’d never read either. and who put cowboy boots on the top of his fence posts, but only because they looked good.

The book has some nice similes and metaphors. How’s this for the inverse of what we normally envision of a Wyoming sunset: The blood-smeared western sky spilled along the brink of the horizon, seeping slowly beneath the earth where it peeled back at the edges. A summer sunset in Wyoming was silently violent, a death. . . . The bleeding sky drained to corpse blue, then decomposed to black while Morgan slept.

For a small town,there’s a lot going on. “Excellent,” Cowper said as he rose to leave. “Meet me at the funeral home in thirty minutes. You won’t believe this, but he leaves the back door unlocked.” Morgan smiled. “It’s a small town,” he said. “The only time we lock our cars around here is zucchini season. If you don’t, somebody will stick a box of squash in your front seat.” “I’ll keep that in mind. And the cashier at the truck stop reads Anais Nin and Bertrand Russell. Not to mention the small-town radio station with totally obnoxious characters with a call-in show too often frequented by a local twelve-year-old. Dude, you got nothin’ better to do with your Saturdays than sit around and call the radio station?” The Bug said. “You’re what, thirteen? Haven’t heard of masturbation? Can I say masturbation on the air?” “You just did.” “Cool.”

An author definitely worth following.