Customer Reviews: Muffin Man
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on March 31, 2012
My favorite books are those that are so deeply entrenched in their own sense of place that the town or region is as essential to the story as the leading characters. I read Muffin Man on a succession of spritely spring days, yet every time I opened the book, I could feel the blast of heat, my clothing stuck to me and I had to check to make sure sweat was not dripping off my chin. I could see and feel and smell high summertime in the Texas Hill Country, and, hot as it was, I wanted to be there.

If you have ever spent any time at all in Texas, you know these people. Brad Whittington has populated a real, if fictional, town with real (are they fictional?) people who interact with each other in yes, OK, very real ways. I know them, or people just like them, and I cared intensely what happened to them. I had a difficult time putting the book down despite the heat, because this book is completely engrossing. The mystery is intelligent, despite the talking muffin, and, slowly at first, then faster and faster the plot progression pulled me through to the satisfying conclusion.

If you love the English language, beautifully wrought quirky characters, similes and metaphors so artful they make you smile, and if you can resist (or else lovingly submit to) the temptations of passionately described epicurean gifts so pervasive in this part of Texas, you'll find much to love in Muffin Man. Warning: Prepare to crave ribs all week.

I know my husband is going to love this book. Its full of guy stuff - camping, poker, rugged vistas, muscle cars, challenging police work - but, ultimately, its a novel about logic and resisting it, the fine line between insanity and genius, lifegiving dreams and the freedom in reality, and, at the very root of everything, love. Always. Never doubt it.
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on March 24, 2012
Brad Whittington, in a nice follow-up to his "Fred" stories, knows Texas and Texans. He can paint scenery that makes you think you are there, and he describes people you would like to know, or, at least, to observe.
The author weaves several threads surrounding the book's main character, small town Texas Sheriff John Lawson. The reader sticks with the story wanting to hurry up and find out how all this stuff is going to come together. The return of John's father, after a twenty-four year absence, adds a psychological dimension to a story about arson and political corruption that John spends every waking hour trying to figure out. He is aided by a muffin that seems to give him clues to the case in cryptic language. Whittington makes that darn part nearly believable.
It's a fun and good read, even if you aren't from Texas, don't like muffins, and don't have issues with your father.

John A. Wood, Professor Emeritus of Religion
Baylor University
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on April 8, 2012
I discovered Whittington's Fred books when they were featured at my local library as a staff choice. I've been hooked ever since and frequently purchase the trilogy as a gift for friends and family. Whittington is the master at subtle character development and the descriptive phrase. Like Mark Cloud's personal journey in the Fred books, John Lawson battles external forces as he learns something about himself and his history throughout Muffin Man.

Sheriff Lawson's battle with his father, son, ex-wife, girlfriend, mother, colleagues and his diet mimics the internal battle he wages against his childhood, failed marriage, lackluster career and stalled romance. The sins of the father come back to haunt the son and grandson as Lawson must come to terms with his father's mental illness and the ripple effects on his own relationships.

Whittington departs from the coming-of-age Christian fiction of the Fred books into general market mystery/crime fiction in Muffin Man and it works. Sheriff Lawson drinks too much, is too critical and judgmental, is mostly honest and is largely blind to his own weakness. Whittington sets the pace with plot twists and turns that keep the pages turning and the reader off-balance. The crime investigation parallels the protagonist's own journey into his past and the fall-out it brings into the present. I particularly appreciated the struggle Sheriff Lawson had in understanding and responding to the accusations of his long-time girlfriend. Lawson did not have a ready response or clever comeback. The author perfectly nailed the communication struggles between the sexes with frustration, confusion and a bit of dry wit and understatement that is his signature strength. The ending is neat, but not too tidy and leaves the reader hungry for more.
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on April 1, 2012
This was my first book to read on a Kindle. It turns out that I like both the Kindle and the book. At first I was just interested in how the investigation was progressing. While that part continued to keep me zipping through the book, it turns out that what the characters were dealing with, and learning about themselves, proved to be more substantive and satisfying. Dare I admit it made me do some self reflecting?

Most of the time when I read a book, I have to struggle with deciding to continue investing the time to finish it. Not this one. I hated to put it down. This is definitely recommended reading.
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on April 1, 2012
Witty, with twists, this tight little novel made me think. In the end, I think that's what I liked best about Brad Whittington's latest book: It made me think. About myself. About how I relate to others and about how I relate to life. I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting a lighthearted yet interesting whodunnit, well-researched and well-told. I got that, but I also got a chance to look in the mirror. Not that I had to look. The story had enough going on -- told with Brad's inimitably dry and slightly ascerbic humor-- that I didn't have to look. But in the end, I wanted to. What with summer just around the corner, let me recommend this as a great "summer read"... though it easily covers all of the seasons of our lives.
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on March 31, 2012
I've read many books by Brad Whittington and this is another great read. Brad is a master story-teller - and he has several intertwined in this new novel.

Wrapped inside this crime mystery is the story of three generations of men - the protagonist, his father and his son. For me this was the strongest and most interesting part of the book. How a dad, often unwittingly and without fully understanding, learns the craft of fatherhood from his dad - and based on that manages his relationships with his children - for better or worse. The characters remind us how we are each uniquely and irretrievably shaped by our own childhoods.

Like usual for Brad, the crime story is compelling and keeps you riveted throughout the book. At the end you can't put it down.

I highly recommend this new book! I'm already looking forward to the next one.
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on June 6, 2012
This a tough review to write, because I liked the book but also have problems with it. I generally liked the characters, the setting and story but I found the "Muffin" aspect of the book kind of hard to swallow (pun intended). I was never sure what the author was trying to do with it so I never really bought into it. I think there was enough working in the story without it. At the same time, I found myself drawn to this unusual, laid-back story.
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on April 13, 2012
I thought the free price eliminated the need for reading all the reviews. Even if I had paid for this book, I would have been pleased. It's a fun and absorbing story. It will make you appreciate the Texas summer even if you've never experienced it.
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on April 20, 2015
I love the development of story line and characters throughout. As I got to know John, I couldn't help but love his efforts to grow, efforts in being fair, his sense of rightness and understanding of any situation, which grew in depth as time went on. He was flawed, but endearingly so. You can't help but hope he comes out on top, and the development toward that end was written very well. I don't very often rate a book a 5, but this was well deserved.
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on April 23, 2012
A cozy mystery featuring a complex sheriff with a bi-polar father, enabling mother, self-centered ex-wife, impressionable son, and patient girlfriend. A routine crime brings Sheriff John Lawson's career, childhood, and adult conflicts together. Combined with the reappearance of his long-gone mentally ill father, events converge to taunt and confuse him.
A delightful read with a distinct POV, interesting characters, and great rhythm.
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