A farmer and occasional journalist gets in over his head when he covers the murder of a young Arab student.
John Riley Hubbard is a rural Arkansas farmer struggling to get by, with a couple of other jobs on the side to make ends meet. Among these is an occasional stint as a sports reporter for the local paper. When his understaffed boss desperately needs someone to cover a local murder, he offers Hubbard more money than he can turn down.
The corpse is that of young Arabic college student Amir Abadi, whose body was wrapped in a carpet and dumped in a ditch by the side of the road. Hubbard is strangely drawn to the boy’s story and to the case, which triggers memories of his own father’s unsolved murder. But then his article is altered by his boss to blame the notorious White River Killer, despite major discrepancies in the style of murder. The FBI gets involved and tries to push him away from the story. His life disrupted and his daughter threatened, he can’t help getting in deeper than he wants to.
Though a small town, Hayslip, Arkansas is full of secrets. Could the culprit be Hubbard’s influential power-broker uncle? Or his boss, whose wife was getting rather cozy with the murder victim? Perhaps someone from Abadi’s past? (Which the FBI seems to be frantically trying to hide.) And can Hubbard figure out the whole puzzle before he and his loved ones get killed?
THE WHITE RIVER KILLER is a busy and energetic mystery, with a number of different threads that all weave together in sometimes unexpected ways as the story goes on. Hubbard is a likeable lead as an ordinary man in a difficult situation, and he readily earns sympathy. Every character seems to be keeping some sort of secret and everyone has something new to add to the mystery, teasing the reader with possibility after possibility until the final conclusion is reached. The author includes light touches of humor, a substantial amount of snidely funny dialogue, and some mischievous surprises that may jog readers’ assumptions in a useful and amusing fashion. A lively and vigorous plot keeps the book moving until the end, without leaving the reader drenched in excessive adrenaline. At times the author falls back on stereotypes a bit too often—the evil ex-wife, the dopey deputy, the threatening FBI agents—but generally is able to keep these clichés from getting too tired, and sometimes even manages to set a couple of them on their heads.
The mystery fan looking for an amusing and engaging diversion will find THE WHITE RIVER KILLER fits the bill admirably.