Willie Mays Black, reporter/drinker/police gadfly, searches for a serial killer in Owen’s (Parker Field, 2014, etc.) fourth crime caper.
Young women, each corpse marked with a distinctive tattoo, have been discovered in Richmond, Virginia. Ronnie Sax, one-time photojournalist, full-time pornographer, possessed all the right perversions, and the cops jailed him. Even Willie thinks he’s guilty until he begins getting threats that his single, pregnant, bartending, college-age daughter, Andi, will be targeted unless Sax is released. Sax’s sister provides an alibi, and he’s freed. Willie’s suspicions turn to an ex-pol he exposed for bedding an underage girl. Now lobbying to desecrate a slave burial ground with big box stores, that fellow, Wat Chenault, is "fronting for a bunch of bright-eyed hustlers who claim they’ll grow the tax base." Owen drops deft characterizations page upon page: Willie as "a busybody who loves getting paid to snoop," and the true killer as "something out of the latest chainsaw movie." Clean and clear, not an extraneous word or scene, Owen’s plot flashes along like a tense edition of Law & Order: SVU. A former reporter, Owen enjoys knifing the newspapers business's bean counters, eager to ignore breaking news in pursuit of the bottom line. A little black comedy provides the knife twist when a former publisher makes the obits after an unfortunate meeting of Segway and city bus. Owen incorporates regulars like Willie’s mother, the dope-smoking Peggy; Awesome Dude, Peggy’s part-time lodger and part-time street wanderer; and Sarah, a young female reporter Willie fears may give up the news beat to chase a bigger paycheck.
Owen has a solid grip on people and place and the social and racial tensions buzzing through a city haunted by history—a perfect milieu for nuanced crime capers.