Kate Rice


Last spring, I read my first Ron Franscell book. It was a true crime story so engaging that I knew it wouldn’t be my last. This New York Times best-selling author (and former Casperite) knows how to keep his readers wanting more! I was lucky enough to score an advanced copy of his newest novel, Deaf Row, releasing on Feb. 14. If you’re not into Valentine’s Day (or even if you are), skip the hearts and flowers and grab a copy of this book instead. (Well, there are hearts involved in this story. In a Criminal Minds kind of way…)

Woodrow “Mountain” Bell is an ex-cop and Vietnam Vet living in the small town of Midnight, Colorado. He’s divorced and estranged from his grown daughter. His only real purpose in life is trying to build a damn rabbit weather vane that actually works (more of a challenge than it sounds, but still…). He begins his days at Tommyknockers Café, drinking coffee with a group of old codgers who call themselves Deaf Row. There’s Father Bert, his best friend and largest irritant all rolled into one. A retired fire chief, retired doctor, retired newspaper editor, former quarryman, former bookkeeper and former funeral director — all sitting around solving the world’s problems over breakfast. 

One day, while visiting an old friend in the St. Barnabas Senior Center (still known as the Old Miners Home from days gone by), Bell meets Luther Nelson, an old man with Alzheimer’s. Turns out Nelson’s daughter was killed in a most horrific way nearly 50 years ago. Her murder was never solved. 

At first Bell’s reluctant to act on this information. But with a little prodding, a lot of curiosity and his finely honed cop instincts, he begins looking into this cold case that, turns out, isn’t so cold after all — except for the chilling discovery of a serial killer with an ever-growing body of work — pun intended. Bell’s investigation takes on the urgency of finding the killer before more victims are slaughtered — and to provide answers to Luther Nelson before Alzheimer’s drains away the man’s memories of his beloved daughter forever.

Franscell paints a vivid picture of everything from the town and its inhabitants, the (often) treacherous mountain roads and an old, abandoned asylum to those frustrating snowstorms that shut everything down for days at a time. His familiarity with law enforcement procedures adds a critical element of realism. And despite the serious matters at hand, he infuses Deaf Row with plenty of humor. 

This story is a fantastic whodunit, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. Franscell gives little snapshots into his character’s pasts, as well as their current states of mind and being. And each of these men, with skills or equipment or knowledge that only they possess, contributes invaluably to Bell’s investigation. Because as much as this is a crime story, it’s also a story about aging, redemption, friendship, and connection. 

It sounds cliché to say I hated putting this book down, but let’s just say I was late getting back to work after lunch more than once this past week. Finishing Deaf Row was bittersweet; satisfying, yet like saying goodbye to a group of folks I’d come to care about like family.

Can’t wait to meet the old coots of Deaf Row? Pre-order/Pre-pay for a copy now at downtown’s Wind City Books, or hit the bookstore next week for its Valentine’s Day release. Shoutout to Wind City Books for all the support it shows our local and regional authors. Casper has so many talented writers, and most of their works are available through Wind City. Find out more about Ron Franscell’s Deaf Row and more at windcitybooks.com, or stop in and chat with the amazing Wind City folks in person.