This police procedural offers the best first sentence that I’ve read lately. The overall pace and plotting meet that high bar, making this a fast page-turner.

Sheriff Francis Hood of Huhman County, Missouri, is a savvy and compassionate lawman but also a recovering alcoholic wondering if he can manage the “recovering” bit. His alcohol abuse got so bad that his wife and daughter have moved out.

As the book begins, Hood finds ex-con Jacob Grace passed out drunk on a country road with an ear cut off.

Grace can’t identify his attacker.

Thirty years ago, Grace stabbed and killed his wife and two sons. A daughter survived but was disfigured. Now he’s out of prison and working as a farm hand not far from the scene of the crime.

Hood’s investigation of the ear-cutting assault leads to the daughter who lives in the house where the crime took place. She’s a reclusive artist and intriguing interlocutor as Jacob is attacked again.

This time, his nose is cut off.

The assaults are bizarre and random . . . Until they make perfect sense. At the same time, two minor criminals are on a spree, robbing church functions. They don’t seem to have any connection to the troubled Grace family . . . At first.

Alcoholism as a character’s Fatal Flaw is a well-trodden path for fictional crimefighters, but SENSE OF GRACE manages to approach it in a different way. Throughout the book Hood mulls his new identity as a recovering alcoholic, the need for spiritual support, and what to do about a deputy heading out of control.

You can’t help but root for Hood, a decent guy getting through one day at a time. I love the way he always introduces himself, “I’m your sheriff, Francis Hood.” It’s great insight into a character who’d do well on the silver screen.

Highly recommended.

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