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by Chris Kelsey

Pub Date: May 6th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-68-433702-6
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

A small-town Oklahoma cop in the mid-1960s investigates a supposed decades-old triple homicide—killings that may implicate a member of his own family.

In Kelsey’s third installment of a mystery series, Chief Emmett Hardy, on leave from the police force following a breakdown and a bout with alcoholism, goes to the state penitentiary at the request of dying prisoner Rufus Kenworthy. Kenworthy wants to “get right with the Lord” by confessing something big to Hardy. The crime involves the mixed-race Younger family. Townspeople believe Clarence Younger and his wife and son fled years ago after their home was torched by racists, but Kenworthy claims that after the fire, the three were murdered and their bodies dumped in the town lake. Kenworthy implies Hardy’s widowed father, who now deals with memory issues, was involved. Or could Kenworthy have confused Hardy’s dad with his father’s older brother, Ernest, who now works for mobsters in New York City? After asking local police and other townspeople to fill in the blanks in Kenworthy’s story, Hardy temporarily lands in the trunk of a car. Along with a dangerous professional life, he has a complicated personal one. Hardy’s lover, Karen Dean, who wears nightwear as “sexy as a repurposed feed bag,” works as a local police officer while his estranged, free-spirited wife, Sophie, lives in New York. She’s a journalist who sidelines playing drums in Greenwich Village jazz clubs. While in New York to find his uncle, Hardy looks up Sophie—and she hits all the right notes. The change of scenery to the big city opens up the story. The book—a smooth melding of mystery and historical fiction—details racial and policing issues that remain to this day. Kelsey deftly captures small-town life of over 50 years ago, and he doesn’t shy away from the most brutal actions of the Ku Klux Klan in the ’30s. The author succinctly recaps the previous volume in the series, which resulted in Hardy’s leave from the force. Other pluses that are woven throughout the engaging tale are references to music—a jazz fan, Hardy plays the horn—and to the hero’s beloved yellow Lab, Dizzy.

A strong mystery that clearly shows some secrets, like a few bodies, can’t stay buried.