"She Needed Killing' " by Bill Fitts

Oct 21, 2013

She Needed Killing: Book 3 in the Needed Killing Series

Author: Bill Fitts

Publisher: Borgo Publishing 2013

Pages: 363

Price: $12.95 (Paper

Retired from the University of Alabama , Bill Fitts has actually done what so many threaten; he has taken up writing murder mysteries.

The Needed Killing Series has a pleasing premise. In each novel, and this is the third, the murder victim is obnoxious and widely disliked. This not only makes the reader feel better about the death, it also swells the number of suspects. In books one and two Fitts killed off the director of the technology center at the University and then the director of the University press.

In each case, the murder was solved by the recently retired computer technician James Crawford who, as this story opens, is just receiving his Private Detective license. Why not? Deaths pop up wherever he goes. He might as well go pro.

This time, Fitts has moved the scene of the crime across the river from the barely disguised Shelbyville to the thinly disguised Archibald, Alabama. There, each year for 30 years now, is held The Festival, run by the nasty Dot Fields.

The Festival itself is described as unimpeachably wonderful. There is music, folk art, fine art, and interesting food. On Saturday the festival-goers can drink Alabama-made beer and wine; Sunday is pet day, and pets are very important to Crawford, who has a dog, Tan, and a cat, The Black.

Besides directing The Festival Dot Fields also stars as a fortune teller, complete with tarot cards, palm reading and crystal ball. She apparently could not see very clearly into her own future, as she is killed on opening day, Friday, by a venomous snake. This is fair enough, since Dot was a venomous snake.

No one seems inclined not to speak ill of the dead. She is described as… “Two-faced. Sweet as she can be to the rich folk; mean as a snake to those not so lucky.”

An arrogant know-it-all, her management style as director was “berate in public; praise in private.”

It seems Dot may have been taking kickbacks from artists she permitted to display and maybe embezzling funds and, perhaps worst of all, was blackmailing several of the guest artists. What did she have on them? Suspects abound.

Crawford is hired by the Board to investigate the blackmailing charge. The murder is a surprise.

In the course of his investigations Crawford uses the expert help of the foremost Southern herpetologist, one who has a column in many Southern newspapers.

Fitts continues to develop the character of his detective. Crawford likes to cook and eat, makes excellent coffee, favors Red Stripe beer and single malt scotch, loves all things technological.

Himself a bit of a know-it-all, Crawford can’t help correcting people’s mistakes in fact or grammar, but is aware of his failing.

Fitts is in no hurry in telling his story. The dialogue is copious, at the far end of the spectrum from the terse talk of Robert D. Parker. As to description: Fitts will tell you every item a group of four had for lunch, what condiments they used and how they disposed of their napkins.

This review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio. Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark” and the editor of “A State of Laughter: Comic Fiction from Alabama.”