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Broken Heartland: A Mad Dog and Englishman Mystery    by J. M. Hayes order for
Broken Heartland
by J. M. Hayes
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In J. M. Hayes' newest book in his Mad Dog and Englishman series, Broken Heartland, Englishman is up for re-election as Sheriff of Benteen County, Kansas. It looks like local politics favor his rival, but he's not sure anyway that he wants to continue in his post. He's alone now, with both daughters away in college and his wife gone to her reward.

Englishman's only available deputy is involved in a chase, ending with the deputy crashing into a school bus carrying the county's teen choir. The question 'What was a choir doing on the roads at that early hour of the morning?' rattles Englishman's composure. The arrival of his daughter (who could feel that her father was in trouble) from college causes more rattling.

This new venture starts off running and never stops until the last page. So much is going on that it seems like it would be hard to keep it all straight. Yet Hayes applies deft touches to keep the storyline intact and as exciting as all get out.

When a student starts shooting up the high school, the reader almost feels compassion for him. But I felt no compassion for the candidate for the sheriff's position and his sidekick, who were both self-serving. At first, the part of Kansas where the action takes place seems like an odd choice. Then I realized that the sort of things that were going on in that area could happen anywhere.

I won't give away the plot, but when I clamped onto what was going down, I knew I was in for a wild ride. Got that in spades. A tip that Hayes has a surprise up his sleeve for a new story for the English family - as the author now will make his home in Tucson - has me looking forward to it. But it'll take some doing to beat this last one.

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