Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Burrows - Reavis Wortham

Just about two months ago, I reviewed the most charming of mysteries (the first in a series) called "The Rock Hole", written by the most charming of Texans that I'd met at Sleuthfest.  Reavis Wortham sets the stage for what is sure to be an amazing series of books that take place in Texas in the 1960's, starring an aging constable and a cast of endearing family members and neighbors.    I thought Wortham did a masterful job at not only cooking up a realistic but chilling antagonist, but creating a memorable snapshot of an era that was simple and honest yet evolving.  I was smitten, and I couldn't wait for more.


I didn't have to wait long.  Reavis warned me that his second installment was decidedly darker, and that his bride had deemed it "Harper Lee meets Stephen King".  How right she was!


Synopsis:  Not long after the harrowing events in "The Rock Hole", constable Ned Parker decides to turn in his badge and retire to live the uneventful life of a cotton farmer.  Meanwhile his nephew Cody, a Vietnam Vet who has a rogue streak in him, takes over the position that, at the worst of times, requires chasing down a few moonshiners, getting the drunks off the roads, and discouraging drag-racing teenagers.  


Soon, however, headless bodies start to show up around their neck of the woods, part of a multi-state killing spree that leads Ned, Cody and Deputy John Washington (the law for the black citizens of town) to an abandoned Cotton Exchange warehouse.  There they find a situation like they have never seen before, nor even imagined.  As Ned and John enter this house of horrors, their worst nightmares are realized, and they soon wonder if they'll ever manage to get out alive (and if they do, will they ever be sane again?).  


My thoughts:  Wortham definitely did take a sharp right turn off this path of nostalgia this time around!  And you know it from the first chapter.  Seriously, one of the best opening chapters I have ever read.  Holy cow, I knew I was in for it from that moment on.  We travel into the surreal, the deranged, and the unexpected.  I'm always preaching about today's mysteries needing a hook, needing something different...well you won't want for anything here.  The scene in the Cotton Exchange was unlike anything I'd read before.  I had to wonder how Wortham conjured it to this level of detail.  


Now, it wasn't ALL about channeling Stephen King.  We did get to catch up with Ned, his struggle with his retirement, and his struggle with keeping his grandkids on the straight and narrow and out of trouble.  I had to chuckle at Ned and the local judge's scheme to "arrest" his grandson and put him the local jail for a hour, to scare him away from smoking cigarettes.  But the majority of the story was not focused on the children this time.  They only provided an occasional point of view.


As with "The Rock Hole", I'm appreciative of the nod to race relations in this novel, which were a constant presence and a source of conflict in the 1960's.  What I love the most is the author's attitude towards a kinship and a collaboration between the blacks and the whites.  You'd think by reading the books published today that people of color live on another planet, but Wortham bucks this whitewashing trend.  


Overall I'm thrilled with this strong entry into the mystery series genre.  The literary voice and the unfolding events in this installment are unforgettable.  You can't ask for more than that.


4.5 out of 5 stars 


    

11 comments:

Beth F said...

Humm. Mention Stephen King and I immediately think it will be too spooky for me. Yet Harper Lee too? Curiosity may win out over fear.

Jackie Bailey said...

I still haven't read any Stephen King so I'm not sure this is for me, but it is good to hear about an author who isn't whitewashing everything. I really should read one of the Stephen King novels I have piled up on my shelf!

bermudaonion said...

I'm with Candace, wondering if this would be too creepy for a big baby like me.

Amritorupa Kanjilal said...

Stephen King meets harper Lee? Brilliant! two of my favorite writers!

Thank you for the review! Do visit!

Amy said...

"Harper Lee meets Stephen King" sounds FANTASTIC! And your review verifies this!

Sandy, you know how to pick great mystery/thriller novels and Reavis Wortham's books sound like amazing page-turners. I like how his second book is darker than the first, like he's easing us into his books! His portrayal of race relations sounds great, too. I really like that he includes a societal issue of such importance in his books, something that's not often found in this genre.

Literary Feline said...

I haven't read the author's first book but you've got me curious about that one as well as this one.

Kathleen said...

I'd love to read something set during this time period!

Zibilee said...

This is high praise indeed, and though you know I am not much of a reader of this genre, I think I need to read this series when I can. You have a great amount of enthusiasm regarding this book, and I enjoyed seeing the story through your eyes. It sounds like a really scary and utterly enthralling read!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Mystery/detective is my favorite GoTo genre and I'm always happy to get in on the ground floor of a good series. High praise from you certainly garners a read :) Adding both of these to my WishList :)

Julie P. said...

Harper Lee? Count me in!

Melissa said...

hmmm, Stephen King just isn't my thing. I'm interested, but not convinced this one is for me.