Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: Scuffletown: A Willie Black Mystery by Howard Owen

Scuffletown: A Willie Black Mystery by Howard Owen is the seventh book in The Willie Black Mystery Series that began with Oregon Hill. For readers new to this series, this is a series that is best read in order as the characters age, relationships change, and much like in the real world, the past is always present and not always in a good way.

It is a lovely afternoon in early April as the book opens and Scuffletown Park is about to be in the news in a big way. A small park surrounded by homes and apartments, it is where Willie Black and the first of four wives started their lives as young married people. Based on the amount of blood splashed across one of the brick walkways, something did go down the night before. The cops had been called out around midnight for a fight of some sort. Upon their arrival, there was nobody in the park. They certainly did not find a body in the dark park and never saw the blood on the bricks. With no body and no signs of a struggle or anything amiss, they soon packed up and moved on to other crimes in the city.

It was not until this morning, a Thursday, that it became clear something bad had gone down in the old park. A jogger cutting through by way of the alley that runs down on side of the park called the cops after he saw the massive amount of blood on the brick stones. Despite a thorough search and spending hours at what clearly is a crime scene, the police still do not have a weapon, a body, or any evidence of an actual crime.

That soon changes when a video, taken by a resident, suddenly turns up. A video that clears shows Willie’s friend and roommate, Abe Custalow, clearly standing over what appears to be a dead man. Almost everyone at the paper, on the police force, and at various local watering holes, knows that Abe has a bedroom in Willie Black’s condo unit. Abe is family and that has not changed. What has changed is that he is now a suspect and the police are looking hard for him. Abe has a criminal record, one that is far more complicated than it would appear from a dry read of the facts. Willie is absolutely positive that Abe did not do this no matter what one can see on a video.

Even though, from the start, Abe wants nothing done on his behalf, Willie begins digging into what Abe has been doing lately and what could have happened in the park. Even though Abe and almost everybody else wants him to stay out of it, reporter Willie Black is not about to stop in his quest to save Abe from himself. Before long he is risking his job, his life, and even his friendship with Abe to prove that his old friend did not do the crime. He does so because the past always matters.

This installment of a complicated series is yet another very good read. While the primary storyline is the case as outlined above, there are ongoing secondary storylines at work that continue previous events from earlier books. The result is another complicated read of complex characters, family drama, and plenty of mystery.

This is a really good series and one that should be read in order. Scuffletown: A Willie Black Mystery by Howard Owen is highly recommended.

The series to this point and my reviews:

Oregon Hill (June 14, 2019)

The Philadelphia Quarry (July 19, 2019)

Parker Field (September 2019)

The Bottom (October 4, 2019)

Grace (November 15, 2019)

The Devil’s Triangle (January 10, 2020)

My reading copy came from the Timberglen Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2020

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