Win Castle has pitted his sons against each other to determine who will take over management of the family's Texas wine business and ranch. Whether it's hunting boar with only a knife or catching sharks, Win pushs them to go further, to take risks. But when his trials are over and he's decided on his successor, he never expects that the winner will be murdered. Nobody much regrets the death of Chaz Castle--the man was a menace to himself and everyone around him. But that only means more suspects for the Texas Rangers and for spunky retired school teacher, winery tour guide, and amateur detective Esbeth Walters. Making things tougher, Win does his best to confuse the case.
Texas Ranger Tillis Macrory has the best conviction record in the Rangers, but he's not too proud to take help where he can get it--and he suspects that Esbeth can help him if she wants. She knows the Castle family, the dynamics within the winery, and the romances that spring up among the Castles and the employees. Even if Esbeth does insist on treating him like a student rather than a law enforcement professional, Tillis sticks it out. Because Esbeth's insights just might be the only thing that will let him cut through the smokescreen that Win is laying and discover the truth.
Author Russ Hall has a terrific ear for the language and manerisms of rural Texas. Expressions like 'meaner than turkey turd beer,' and loonier than the Saturday morning cartoons' are sure to bring a smile--and a nod of recognition. Another nod of recognition goes to Esbeth herself--a carefully drawn character who would be at home anywhere in Texas, sorting things out, protecting her pride, and knowing just a bit more than anyone else. Wine buffs will also enjoy the detailed look at Texas winemaking--and the antics involved in winery tours.
Most of the first half of the novel set the stage for the first murder--but events happen quickly after the Castle family returns from a wedding trip to Belize--with the succession decided and tempers hot. NO MURDER BEFORE ITS TIME is an enjoyable read.