Book Review: “He Needed Killing Too” by Bill Fitts

This is a sequel to He Needed Killing, which I reviewed here. If you enjoyed that book, you’ll like this one, too, because it’s more of the same. Once again, retired university IT professional James Crawford is hired by the provost to investigate a murder on campus.

And like He Needed Killing, the charm of the book is less about the mystery than the atmosphere and the characters. Crawford’s life in a southern college town is portrayed as pleasant, slow-paced, and filled with food and football on a regular basis. Sure, there’s a murder to be solved, but that doesn’t stop Crawford from taking time to enjoy the good things in life. Like another southern detective, he “strolls leisurely” on his way to the truth.

And it’s an enjoyable stroll, because the descriptions of campus life are so well-written and the characters so likable. (Except, of course, for the ones who really do “need killing.”)

Crawford is a great protagonist, and his style of investigation is perhaps best captured by these lines, which he says while musing out loud to his cat:

“They were figuring out all the orbits of the solar system–how the orbits of the planets and moons were impacted by gravity, but the model kept predicting the wrong orbits. The only way they could get the model to work was if there was another planet the size of Neptune where Neptune had to be. So they looked and–by damn–there was Neptune. Don’t you think that’s cool?”

Crawford makes sense of things by thinking out loud while puttering around his house. It’s not flashy like Sherlock Holmes, which leads a lot of people to underestimate his detective skills. Much to their detriment, as it turns out…

But, in all honesty, I didn’t read this book for the mystery. In fact, I figured out who the killer was pretty early on. But that did not detract from my enjoyment one bit, because what’s really fun about it is the style, the pace, and the setting.

[Audio version of this post available below.]

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