By Chris Kelsey
JUNKER BLUES is the fourth book in Chris Kelsey’s series featuring small town police chief Emmett Hardy. It’s 1974 and the Oklahoma town of Burr is experiencing an economic boom brought about by drilling for oil in the vicinity. Much as Hardy relishes the influx of money to his sleepy town, not to mention the arrival of more fast food chains, as head of the police he’s getting worried by a simultaneous boom in crime and disorder. When a young adult with learning disabilities is found shot at the local drive-in Hardy figures it’s just a sign of the way the town is going. But there are other unsolved, seemingly random murders and now forensics are linking them all to one killer and an antiquated Russian pistol. Hardy heads the investigation into what he thinks must be some out-of-towner killing for kicks but as the evidence mounts he realizes there is something rotten in his own home town.
Beautifully written with first person narration by the laconic and frequently very funny Hardy, JUNKER BLUES is a literary mystery that is not afraid to take its time. In terms of crime thrillers it’s relatively sedate in that, at least until the near end, the hero turns up after the event when the corpses are cold and is left to piece together what happened via old-fashioned police work. This means there is plenty of tracking down suspects, plenty of interviews, plenty of procedure. With a writer as talented as Kelsey at rendering memorable, quirky characters and with a perfect ear for dialogue these encounters are a joy.
One of the keys to a successful character series is to reveal the persona of the lead incrementally. Each new book doesn’t warrant a reinvention of the hero and every revelation, no matter how minor, should be both logical and, in some respects, obvious. Kelsey is a master at this kind of pacing of information with each new reveal from Hardy, even something as seemingly mundane as his recollection of a cat he had owned decades before, adding to the reader’s understanding of his psyche and the way he approaches the situation at hand.
Chris Kelsey’s JUNKER BLUES, the fourth book featuring small town police chief Emmett Hardy, is essential reading and a first class mystery novel.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader
Black Rose Writing