FETCH THE DEVIL
by Clint Richmond
Published in 2014 by University Press of New England.
Reviewed by Kendra Crispin.
El Paso, Texas already had its share of border conflicts and law enforcement turf wars, including international disputes, but the 1938 murders of Hazel Frome and her daughter, Nancy, exacerbated an already tense situation. El Paso sheriff Chris Fox – a member of General Blackjack Pershing’s Mexican expedition – was determined to solve the case, but his investigation butted against the prejudices of fellow lawmen. That included the Texas Rangers, still smarting from the firing shake-ups of “Ma” Ferguson; Culberson Country sheriff Albert Anderson, who wasn’t willing to give up jurisdiction (again) to Fox; and the Berkley, California lawmen who would not press the widower and father, Weston Frome, for answers when he was surprisingly uncooperative. Making things worse, the Mexican authorities were often unhelpful and the workers had reason to distrust gringo cops. Yet with more cooperation, a few leads might have led Fox and the others to a Nazi sleeper agent later arrested for espionage. That lack of cooperation led to a possible conspirator being released, whose own history sounds like a twisted mystery subplot.
True crime fans will be both impressed and dismayed with how close law enforcement came to answers, and give credit to the particular efforts of Chris Fox, who could not forget the case even after his own son’s wartime death. Spy enthusiasts and World War II buffs will be intrigued to learn the depth of Nazi espionage in 1930s America and its collateral damage. This is a story with twists that sound like fiction, with a varied cast and even mentions of Hoover and FDR. Some of the turf disputes sound familiar, and yet so much was accomplished despite those limitations – not to mention the technological differences. As a military history graduate and a true crime enthusiast, I urge readers of both genres to pick up Fetch the Devil.
Having three novels to revise didn’t stop Oregon transplant Kendra Crispin from starting a non-fiction project on Doctor Who for Camp NaNoWriMo. An alumna of UT-Austin and Norwich University (Vermont), she loves reading and hopes to soon see her own books being reviewed on this site.