Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Briarpatch” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  515 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
A long-distance call from a Texas city on his birthday gives Benjamin Dill the news that his sister—it's her birthday, too, they were born exactly ten years apart—has died in a car bomb explosion. It's the chief of police calling—Felicity Dill worked for him; she was a homicide detective. Dill is there that night, the beginning of his dogged search for her killer. What he ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 9th 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1984)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Briarpatch, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Briarpatch

The Black Echo by Michael ConnellyThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythEye of the Needle by Ken FollettIn the Woods by Tana French
Edgar Award Winners
57th out of 83 books — 122 voters
Double Indemnity by James M. CainThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. CainThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettBeast In View by Margaret Millar
Crime Masterworks
42nd out of 68 books — 6 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 987)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 12, 2015 Joey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably closer to a 3.5 but nevertheless a good read. Was a 4 up until the last couple of chapters. Finding out who the killer was somewhat spoiled what had been a very good story. I didn't like how the book gave barely a clue leading up to the killer's unveiling, it could have been anyone for all the same reasons. Well written even with the gratuitous wealth of information about every location. My first Ross Thomas but not my last.
Jun 27, 2012 Jake rated it liked it
People seem to fart sparklers when they talk about Ross Thomas, and Briarpatch won an Edgar award. So I was expecting Big Things. And it was...pretty good. With zero positive billing, I think I would have been very pleasantly surprised, like the time I ran across Fast & Furious at 2am on USA. When you add in the hype, it's maybe a little bit of a letdown.

Still, it's a perfectly competent thriller in the same tone as early Robert B. Parker stuff. The main character, Dill, is an innocent DC bu
Jan 23, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
Out of good stuff to read... I went whining into my bookshop "I need a new author," I whaled. (My shop is quite used to this and JB, the floor manager, keeps a mental list of whine stoppers.) I came home with Briarpatch. Since I wasn't in a great mood to start with, I didn't start this book with an open mind. I was pissed at the whole world of publishing. But, Ross Thomas and his characters sucked me in right away. Ben Dill has to find out who killed his police detective sister and why and he do ...more
Rob Kitchin
Jun 22, 2014 Rob Kitchin rated it really liked it
Briarpatch won an Edgar Award and was re-printed as part of the Orion Crime Masterworks series. It’s certainly a well crafted book with a strong sense of place (despite the city name never being revealed) and a nicely worked plot. Thomas’ style is one of relatively thick description providing detailed portraits of each character and the geography and history of the place. Usually it’s pretty wearisome to know the precise looks and fashions of each character, or the vista of each street, but Thom ...more
Bobby Mathews
Aug 20, 2015 Bobby Mathews rated it it was amazing
One of the things I'm trying to do is go back and find classic crime fiction writers whom I may have missed out on. Ross Thomas is one of those. Charles Willeford is another.

Ross Thomas's novel, Briarpatch, is fantastic, and makes me want to IMMEDIATELY buy more of his books.

(This isn't a review, exactly, just a visceral reaction to the book.)
Apr 09, 2010 Eric rated it liked it
This was recommended by Nancy Pearl on KUOW,who praised it for its smart, intricate plot structure. It certainly has that, as well as a nice blending of crime thriller with political conspiracy. Written in 1985, however, the plot probably packed much more topical punch in the era of Iran-Contra scandals.
David Schlosser
Jan 17, 2014 David Schlosser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably closer to a 3.5, but I'll round up for this efficient, well written, fast-paced mystery. Ross Thomas has a specialty in books with political intrigue and themes written with a satirical eye; it can be hard to satirize politics, and Thomas plays it pretty straight in Briarpatch. There are cops and legislators, corruption and double-crosses, people on the make and getting hung out to dry, all observed by a sympathetic but somewhat opaque protagonist trying to figure out who murder ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The plot is almost too similar to the old 30's novels of Hammett and Chandler, but Ross Thomas puts his own spin on things. The sheer description of the unnamed composite Sun Belt city makes it a must read, not to mention the balance of dark humor and tension.
Briarpatch opens with the death of Detective Felicity Dill. Her brother, Ben Dill, journeys home for the funeral and to find out why his sister died. A twisted web of politics, policing and crime quickly surround Dill. He is employed by a Senator who happens to have business in Dill’s home town and is the childhood friend of the criminal who is the subject of that business. While he navigates this dicey terrain, Dill teams up with his sister’s friend and lawyer to manipulate events towards a rem ...more
Mike Jensen
Jul 26, 2009 Mike Jensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book after the first 60 pages. Thomas has a habit of telling you deep background on the characters, the streets they drive on, and the buildings they enter. Some of this pays off later in the book; some of it does not. I don't ever need to read more words about the history of a street then the number of words used to tell about the characters spending time on that street, and Thomas makes this error. 30 of the first 60 pages were hard to get through because of these deep back ...more
Chris Bubb
Dec 10, 2013 Chris Bubb rated it it was ok
This was a real disappointment. I picked it up on Nancy Pearl's recommendation, and the reviews on the back cover sounded promising. But it just didn't work. Thrillers are supposed to be thrilling; this one wasn't. The pace was slow and there was no action to speak of. Plus, the author kept taking time out to give a back story for every location the main character visited. I didn't really need to know the history of every restaurant where Ben Dill had a ham sandwich, but Ross Thomas made sure to ...more
Dec 26, 2011 Al rated it liked it
Three stars plus, I guess. I only recently heard about Ross Thomas (mea culpa) and this was therefore the first of his books I have read. This book, not one from his most popular series, features a low level federal employee who travels from Washington to his (nameless) childhood home city in the southwest to try to figure out who murdered his beloved sister, a policewoman there. Matters quickly become complicated, and the protagonist tries to juggle a burgeoning cast of characters and the obli ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Sheri rated it liked it
In my search for a good crime novel, I came across Briarpatch, by Ross Thomas. Nothing is as it seems in this thriller which starts with the murder of a detective in a town somewhere in the mid-South (Texas? Arkansas? Oklahoma? Doesn't matter). The main character, also a cop, but working in D.C., is a relative of the victim, and personally interested in solving the crime. Nothing is what it seems, and everyone seems to have their own personal agenda. A fun read.
Patti Filak
Feb 12, 2014 Patti Filak rated it really liked it
I am not fond of political intrigue books - but, this author came highly recommended by a librarian. The book took me back a bit to the books of detectives in the 1930's. The story was interesting and moved well and the writing style was enjoyable. I understand this is the first of a trilogy Mr Thomas wrote - and I enjoyed this enough to read the next two. A fast, pleasant read.
Mar 17, 2009 Nikki rated it really liked it
Ben Dill, who works for a Senate subcommittee in Washington, D.C., gets a phone call from the chief of homicide in his home town. His younger sister, a homicide detective, has been killed by a car bomb. Ben flies to the unnamed city (which appears to be in Oklahoma or perhaps Kansas) and discovers many puzzling aspects to the case. With the help of his sister's lawyer and friend, the beautifully-named Anna Maude Singe, he begins investigating. In the process he meets up with a childhood friend w ...more
Jan 29, 2009 Gayle rated it liked it
Ross Thomas won an Edgar award for this one (named after Edgar Allen Poe, and awarded to mysteries), copyrighted in 1984, so I had high hopes.

The title, derived from the Uncle Remus stories, refers to one's home turf, in which one can expect to be safe. This is not immediately apparent, as the story begins with the murder of a young police detective, and continues with her brother, Benjamin Dill, trying to unravel who did it and why. As he draws nearer to the answer, he finds that it all hinges
Larry Buhl
Mar 27, 2011 Larry Buhl rated it liked it
I don't get it. I'm 2/3 through, and still trying very, very hard - harder than I should have to - to be engaged with this story. Maybe thriller/mystery is not my genre. I chose it because it is supposed to be a classic and won accolades etc. But man... It's mostly plot broken up by (stunningly pointless, to me) narrative. Thomas slows down every few pages to give a history of an apartment building, a park, a hotel, etc., and I'm hoping that these are actually relevant clues. But so far they see ...more
Sep 02, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining, suspenseful, and an Edgar winner. A car bomb blows a young homicide detective to bits. A thousand miles away, her brother Benjamin Dill learns of her death and travels to their Midwest hometown to find her killer. He follows a tangle of leads through petty thieves, corrupt cops and politicians that bring him to a boyhood friend whose illegal arms deals have made him a multimillionaire. A heart-rending decision and a violent weekend bring the matter to a surprising conclusion. Thoma ...more
This Audio CD had a great reader, but it could not fix the same old problem I find with so many male writers. Lots of strong language and sex.
Apr 07, 2014 Nooilforpacifists rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thriller
Unusually, a more "traditional" mystery, with a bit less of the political than normal--but one of his best.
Michael Wallach
Jan 01, 2015 Michael Wallach rated it liked it
randomly picked it off the shelf, was very pleasantly suprised
Sean O
Jun 11, 2014 Sean O rated it really liked it
Ross Thomas didn't disappoint in this story of a man coming home to find out who killed his sister.

Very cinematic storytelling and some good characters (not to be confused with characterization.)

If you like movies like Fargo, or shows like True Detective, you will enjoy this novel.

My biggest complaint about it is the melodramatic timing of some of the bits, and a rather perfunctory romance. But I'm not reading Ross Thomas for any deep introspection, so it's OK.
Jan 07, 2013 Jim rated it liked it
This was an average book. I liked the plot and the writing style was okay. It was supposed to have a lot of humor but that mostly eluded me. For me, the biggest problem with the story was that I did not much care for any of the characters. The only character that elicited a degree of interest was the dead sister. I think her story would have been a lot more interesting than the one the author actually told. All in all, a disappointing book. I probably will not bother to read another.
Aug 30, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heard someone recommend this author in general, and this book in particular, in a radio interview and decided to give it a try. I thought it was great. Thomas has an Elmore Leonard-like gift for realistic dialogue and characters that instantly grab your interest. When I finished this I looked for more books by Thomas and was terribly disappointed to learn that the main character in this book is a one-off--I was so hoping to find him in other adventures.
Marta Matthews
Jun 12, 2014 Marta Matthews rated it liked it
interesting. good writing,will try a few more.
Todd Podzemny
Feb 03, 2014 Todd Podzemny rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
A tight Chandler-flavored mystery that is very nearly set in Oklahoma city. Good times.
Jim Naughton
Jul 18, 2008 Jim Naughton rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Many years ago I read Briarpatch and, I'm sure, loved it. But like Lawrence Block, who wrote an introduction to the Thomas Dunne re-issue of the book, I picked it up again and re-read it. What wonderful plotting and pacing and such clever writing. It made me mourn anew for Ross Thomas, who started writing later in life and, alas, left a modest but delicious list of fewer than 20 books. Read them.
Ellen Moore
Aug 10, 2013 Ellen Moore rated it really liked it
This was a good book--fast-paced, well-written, lots of action and surprises. I had not read this author before but really liked him. The brother of a young woman who was murdered was notified of her death and flew to the town where he grew up. He began investigating it and reconnected with several old friends and met some new ones. There were no dull moments or boring pages.
Nathan Willard
Aug 26, 2009 Nathan Willard rated it liked it
Not one of Thomas's best, it follows the youngish protagonist from DC back to his home town to investigate the murder of his sister. The subplots are slightly too pointlessly complicated, and the DC elements are integrated inartfully. The relationships and conversations are, as usual, wonderful, as are the elements of absurdity that makes Thomas generally worth reading.
Jan 16, 2013 Kenneth rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It was a bit of a random pick-up from someone else's shelf. I didn't know anything about the author previously.
Despite that I got really into the book. Parts of it even made me homesick as it was set in Texas (which means some of you may not like that). But overall I thought it was a well-crafted mystery with interesting characters and a good plot.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Best of Father Brown
  • Midnight Plus One (Crime Masterworks)
  • Hammett
  • The Labyrinth Makers
  • A Long Way from Verona
  • Beast In View
  • The Summer House: A Trilogy
  • The Suspect
  • Ice (87th Precinct, #36)
  • A Dram Of Poison
  • The Cold Cold Ground (Detective Sean Duffy, #1)
  • One Police Plaza
  • Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes (Franklin Library of Mystery Masterpieces)
  • The Hours Before Dawn (Paperback)
  • The Light of Day
  • Serenade
  • The Informant (Butcher's Boy, #3)
  • Snakeskin Shamisen (Mas Arai, #3)
Ross Thomas was an American writer of crime fiction. He is best known for his witty thrillers that expose the mechanisms of professional politics. He also wrote several novels under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck about professional go-between Philip St. Ives.

Thomas served in the Philippines during World War II. He worked as a public relations specialist, reporter, union spokesman, and political strat
More about Ross Thomas...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“The redheaded homicide detective stepped through the door at 7:30 A.M. and out into the August heat that already had reached 88 degrees. By noon the temperature would hit 100, and by two or three o'clock it would be hovering around 105. Frayed nerves would then start to snap and produce a marked increase in the detective's business. Breadknife weather, the detective thought. Breadknives in the afternoon.” 3 likes
“Dying in vain isn't really all that bad since nearly everyone does it. It's the living in vain you really have to watch out for.” 1 likes
More quotes…