Heroes and Lovers by Wayne Zurl is at heart one of the many, many police procedurals out there. I’ve read good ones and bad ones, ones I can’t remember and ones that have gotten stuck in my head for various reasons. So the question becomes what makes this one stand out? And it has to be Sam Jenkins, police chief of the small town of Propect, Tennessee.

Sam may be living in small town USA now, but he was a detective in New York City, so knows his way around investigations, but when what seems like a routine sting of a low-life repair shop owner ripping off women customers goes awry, Sam may be more emotionally involved than he should be. A good friend of his, perhaps a too close friend, TV reporter Rachel Williamson is kidnapped. Sam calls in the FBI, but of course being who he is, he retains as much control of the investigation as possible.

Sam is a charming man and he knows it. He has a penchant for doing impersonations and flirting with every attractive woman in sight. He’s also a hero, a man determined to save the day, arrest the bad guy, make sure the victims get the help the need. He might be a little over the top, but he makes me smile. I think this little bit of conversation between him and his sergeant, Bettye Lambert, kinda sums him up.

[Bettye said,] “Just please don’t do something like that again. I don’t want to lose you as a boss or a friend.”
“Well, shucks, little darlin’, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
“Damn, but that sounded like John Wayne speaking. On the other hand, maybe I just imagined that.
“Sometimes, Sam, you are more than I can handle.”
“Well, sure, but I’m so derned cute, it shouldn’t matter.”
The woman actually growled at me. (pg. 87-88)

While the center of this mystery is first off who kidnapped Rachel and how can they rescue here, it also deals with emotions. Sam and his wife have been happily married for years, but his attraction to Rachel is more than a little distracting. Actually, I was a little annoyed by this. I didn’t picture Sam as a man who would take another woman out to dinner without at least mentioning it to his wife. It bothered me for parts of the book, but I like how Zurl wrapped it all up in the end, both the basic plot and the add-ons, the messier bits that make a story full and engrossing.

This is the third Sam Jenkins mystery I’ve read and I definitely enjoyed it. It would easily work as a stand alone, although like with most series, you get more feeling for the characters the more of the stories you read. I love the Smoky Mountains setting, the mix of local folks and Jenkins and his wife. A couple of minor complaints. I wish the proof-reading had been a little better. There were several glaring mistakes, not enough for them to disturb my reading but too big to just gloss over. Second, the characters speak in the local dialect, which is fine, but I felt like at times it was overdone, a little too many fers and darlin’s.

I’m also counting this as my first read for the winter holidays, even though I haven’t officially mentioned that I’m reading holiday books yet. It starts a few days before Christmas and ends just after New Years, so I’ll include a holiday quote, the first paragraph of the book.

The last thing I wanted to do just before Christmas wa tangle with a creep like Elrod Swaggerty. Unfortunately, a police officer has little choice of what or who dumped onto his lap. Our motti is, “To protect and serve.” Humbug.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery – Police Procedural

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Sam Jenkins #3
Published September 29, 2012 by Iconic Publishing
254 pages

Sam Jenkins Mysteries


  1. A New Prospect
  2. A Leprechaun’s Lament
  3. Heroes and Lovers


  1. A Labor Day Murder (included in A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  2. By the Horns of a Cow (included A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  3. Serpents and Scoundrels (included in A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  4. Murder in a Wish-Book House (included in A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  5. A Murder in Knoxville (included in A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  6. A Fire and Old Ice (included in Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  7. Bullets Off-Broadway (included in Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  8. Scrap Metal and Murder (included in Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  9. Reenacting a Murder (included in Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  10. V is for Vitamin? (included in Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries)
  11. Fate of a Floozy
  12. The Great Smoky Mountain Bank Job

Book source: For review

About Wayne Zurl

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators.
He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves.
Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara—not far from Prospect PD.


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