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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  654 Ratings  ·  67 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)
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Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Audiobook: A Briar Patch can be many things: a hiding place, a place to avoid (as in Star Trek), a thicket of prickly bushes, and a place where you can get all tangled up. Ben Gill experiences all of those things in this book.

Felicity Dill, homicide detective, collects rent due on her duplex, gets in her car, and is blown to bits. Her brother, Ben, is an investigator for a Senate subcommittee. He immediately flies down to his hometown where she worked and discovers a mystery. Felicity had paid $
Mal Warwick
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ross Thomas‘ first novel, The Cold War Swap, was published in 1967. It won the Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best first novel of that year. As the crime writer Lawrence Block relates in his introduction to the Kindle Edition of the political thriller Briarpatch, published 17 years later, Swap “launched a career that brought [Thomas] no end of awards, an army of fiercely loyal readers, and a whole shelf of books with his name on them, in none of which one will ...more
May 11, 2014 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.
Michael Fredette
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although he never became the household name that other authors such as Elmore Leonard did, Ross Thomas reputation among crime fiction aficionados is sterling. Briarpatch is an intricately plotted, though relatively straightforward mystery about the killing (by car bomb) of a homicide detective Felicity Dill. At first blush, Dill appears to be corrupt. She owns a rental property that she couldn't necessarily afford. But as her brother Benjamin Dill delves into the case, he discovers that more was ...more
David C Ward
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ross Thomas was one of the best American writers, more than just a genre writer although he was excellent at that. His characters are great as are his descriptions of Americana and could turn a phrase as well as any one. Entertaining too. Can't beat all of that.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
ross thomas was a gifted writer & storyteller.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Taken as just a Ross Thomas novel, this is a 4-star book: it's one of his five best novels (I think), the plot, characters and dialogue are classic Thomas and the themes of alienation, government graft, and moral ambiguity are well-expressed and ring true, despite the clicheed nature of the genre.

As an exploration of Oklahoma City, the author's hometown, the book gets 5 stars. As an aside: I also grew up in Oklahoma City, about four blocks from Ross Thomas' childhood home, so I am likely way mor
Chris Bubb
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
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
Jun 27, 2012 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 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
Bobby Mathews
Aug 19, 2015 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.)
Dec 24, 2009 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.
Apr 09, 2015 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.
Apr 04, 2014 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.
Masayuki Arai
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
poor sister
Mike Jensen
Jul 26, 2009 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
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edgar-winner
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
Rob Kitchin
Jun 22, 2014 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
Dec 26, 2011 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
David Schlosser
Jan 17, 2014 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
Feb 25, 2009 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 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 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
Lynn Pribus
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Entertaining, if dated. Many nice turns of phrase such as "I had a bad case of the qualms."

Constant motif of time and temperature in unidentified, but thoroughly described, possibly fictitious Texas city. (11 p.m. and 96 degrees)

More modern books are very specific about their cities: Bosch in L.A., Kat Colorado in Sacramento, Nameless in San Francisco, Tess Monoghan in Balmer, for example.

But an enjoyable enough read.

The summer I was 10, my parents built our home on Briar Patch Road. Literally.
Sep 02, 2009 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
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Story about a guy named Dill who returns to his hometown to investigate the murder of his sister. Thomas' prose has a direct, hardboiled nature to it that kept me going although some of the dialogue is painfully bad, particularly conversations between Dill and a love interest. Overall, I found the main character to be too cool and blasé to be interesting. Nothing ever surprises him and he always seems a step ahead of everyone. The pay off at the end wasn't that great either. I was excited to rea ...more
Sean O
Apr 24, 2014 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.
Mar 19, 2014 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.
Aug 30, 2010 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.
Jim Naughton
Nov 17, 2007 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.
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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
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“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.” 5 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.” 2 likes
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