Book: The Man Who Was Taller Than God

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The Man Who Was Taller Than God: A Carl Wilcox Mystery

Author: Harold Adams
Publisher: Walker & Company

Carl Wilcox really does try to stay out of trouble—he’s had enough of it over the years—but the times being what they are, the choice isn’t always his. For now, though, he’s taken a job painting signs for the town of Hope, South Dakota. It beats hanging around his folk’s hotel in Corden and gives him the chance to earn an honest dollar.

Then, late one July day, the McGillacuddy kid rides up on his bike and tells him that there’s a body in the sandpit outside of town. Nothing about the death was natural. Everyone knew Felton Edwards, but there didn’t seem to be many who liked him, except for some of the women. And while the local police were willing to let matters just go their own way—without any help from Carl—the mayor had a different idea. It seems that Edwards left town about fifteen years ago and his last known location was Edenberg, but before he left, he’d had his way with some of the women in town, never giving any thought to whether they were married. Now, if Carl would just do some investigating on the mayor’s behalf, well, there just might be some other work available around town.

One of the first things Carl discovers in Edenberg is that Felton Edwards’s reputation was deserved. The second thing he discovers is another body—and another warning to steer clear of doing any investigating on his own. Still, most of the people Carl will have to talk to are women, and there was the promise of more work…There were lots of people with cause to kill the man who was taller than God, but only one of them did it. There were also some people taking potshots at Carl Wilcox. But a puzzle or a fight just broke up the tedium of a long summer day….


Felton Edwards may have been “taller than God,” but when his long frame turns up in Hope, South Dakota’s sandpit, he’s just deader than dirt. While none of the locals are surprised that the womanizing Edwards finally got his face blown off, they do wonder why Hope’s less-than-favorite son is back in town after 15 years away—even if it’s in the form of a corpse. Lucky for Hope (and this being the Great Depression, luck’s been hard to come by), Carl Wilcox, the region’s ace crime-solving hobo, just happens to be in town doing a little sign painting. Anxious to protect the town’s peaceful reputation and somewhat suspicious of his sheriff’s motives, Hope’s mayor persuades the High Plains drifter to stick his oft-broken nose into Edwards’s past—and, preferably, to ferret out a killer of the nonresident variety. As Wilcox follows Edwards’s trail through the Depression-ravaged region, he discovers a string of bitter lovers, cuckolded husbands, and disgruntled business partners, none of them too broken up that the state’s tallest man has been rendered permanently prone.

Ninth in the Carl Wilcox Mystery series, The Man Who Was Taller Than God stands as Harold Adams’s most successful employment of his durable character and formula, and received the 1993 Shamus Award in recognition. Between rolling cigarettes and ingratiating his way into numerous free meals, Wilcox narrates his shambling search for Edwards’s killer in a laconic yet playful voice. If the book’s plot occasionally lacks urgency, Wilcox’s likeable storytelling charms the reader through any slow spots. —Shane Farmer

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