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Things in Ditches by Jimmy Olsen

Things in Ditches, Jimmy Olsen, book review, mystery, On My Kindle Book Reviews

Source: I received a free print copy in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Format: eBook, Print
Publication Date: December 1, 2000

Back Cover

A murder mystery novel. The story of Phillip "Dutch" Cleland, a man with a hidden past and a future about to explode in his face. A seemingly average man whose love for two women drives him to such extremes that deception, even murder and suicide are not longer unthinkable. When a lovely corpse is discovered near Dutch's home town, the nearby ditches begin to yield a harvest of secrets, none of them comforting for Dutch. Soon he is forced to flee for his life, before his past and the police slip a noose around his neck.

Things In Ditches is peopled with small town characters that are so humorous and eccentric, their oddball antics enliven every paragraph and page. A reader can't help but be reeled in by the strange citizens of Willow River, until soon discovering they're really not so different from all of us and Dutch's story is the oldest story on earth; good and evil, betrayal and laughter. And finally, the power of love and friendship, forging one man's determination to overcome all odds, even death. 


To say that Phillip "Dutch" Cleland has a lot on his plate would be an understatement. After confessing to his wife, Jean, that he had an affair with Vicky Johnson, the couple managed to salvage their marriage and things seem back to normal. However, Vicky is at the forefront of Dutch's mind when he wakes up one morning after a busy night; this is not surprising since he killed Vicky and left her body in a ditch the night before. Dutch sends Jean off to work and contemplates suicide to avoid being humiliated in front of the residents of his hometown, Willow Run. In the meantime, Ervin "Walleye" Wertz finds Vicky's body as he searches the ditches near Willow Run for discarded treasure.

Willow Run's police chief, Charlie Benson, is called out to search the body for evidence in an effort to find the person who committed such a brutal act. Rather than turning the investigation over to the sheriff, he decides to follow the trail of evidence that leads him to Dutch. However, instead of committing suicide, Dutch has decided to make a run for it. Unfortunately, Charlie is not the only person looking for Dutch; however, he is the only one who is interested in bringing Dutch in alive.

Quirky, small-town characters breathe life into this mind-bending, brain-twisting mystery as readers follow along with the murder investigation that has everyone in this small, Minnesota town talking. Olsen takes us on a scenic tour of Willow Run and the surrounding area as Dutch recalls his affair with Vicky, reflects on the betrayal that led up to his crime of passion, and decides the best course of action to evade his pursuers.

Each character that readers encounter in the book is painstakingly crafted to add color and humor in an otherwise grim, cold, and somewhat morbid setting. Olsen has taken a small town setting and magnified the idiosyncrasies that one might find in a small town to add a sense of surrealism to the plot while guiding us through plot twists and turns that will confound even the most avid of mystery readers as to how the book will end.

I need to add a trigger warning to this review: there is one instance of attempted sexual assault around the middle/end of the book. It is when Vicky's ex-husband and her current husband try to find out from Jean where Dutch is. Once I saw where that encounter was going, I skipped past it.

I found the ending surprising, despite the fact that one particular piece of evidence kept rising to the surface of Charlie's mind; however, he was unable to follow up on this evidence, and readers do not discover its significance until the very end.

Things in Ditches is definitely one book that I will re-read in the future to see if I missed out on any details that would have led me to the correct conclusion. I am more than happy to recommend this book to mystery readers who are seeking an unconventional and riveting mystery novel.

About Jimmy Olsen

Jimmy Olsen, Things in Ditches, book review, On My Kindle Book Reviews
Jimmy Olsen, author. Courtesy of Goodreads.
Jimmy Olsen didn’t start writing fiction until he was well past 40. In the tradition of American writers like Jack London and Louis L’Amour, Olsen spent much of his life seeking adventure. He began scuba diving in 1961 at age 13 and continues today. A machine-gunner in Vietnam, after two tours he settled down awhile, married, started a family and graduated college with a BS in English.

Still at college, he published his first national story in a diving magazine. A year later he moved his family to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where he taught at a private American school and started the Republic’s first professional diving school, Scuba Dominican, C por A. Hearing rumors of shipwrecks and gold, Olsen and a small group of adventurers discovered the site of the French Man-O-War Imperial and several other vessels.

After five years in the Caribbean, Olsen completed his MA at the University of Alabama and returned to writing, taking a job with a daily newspaper in Athens, Alabama for a year before becoming an editor back home in Minnesota. This lasted four years before the thirst for adventure overtook him again and he was back in the diving business, traveling to dive destinations from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. The snorkeling scene in Thing In Ditches comes directly from the author’s own rich experiences.

Jimmy Olsen has written two additional novels, Scuba, due to be released next year and YR-71, a Vietnam seafaring adventure set near Da Nang. In addition, he’s completed 20 short stories, some set in his native Minnesota and others from around the globe. Several of these have recently been sold and will soon be in print. Olsen continues to travel extensively, returning to the Dominican Republic to dive his old haunts only hours before Hurricane Georges.

Equally at home at the keyboard of a computer or his ancient Royal, Olsen spends his writing days in a north woods setting without even the basic comforts such as running water or electricity and at his modern office in the city. He has three children, now grown, and lives with his wife in Minnesota.
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I would like to thank Jimmy Olsen for providing me with a signed copy of his book. It is rare to receive print copies of books that I review and even more rare to receive signed copies of print books.

Have you read any books by Jimmy Olsen? Let me know in the comments.