The Rock Hole by Reavis Z. Wortham: A review

I had read a couple of the later entries in this series and decided that perhaps I should go back to the beginning. This book was the first in the Red River mysteries series.

The events of the book take place in 1964 in East Texas, a time and place when racial tensions were a prominent part of everyday life. We meet Constable Ned Parker who is White and a Black deputy sheriff named John Washington. The two work together to deliver justice and to protect their community from evil.

In this case, this evil is exemplified by an individual who takes pleasure in torturing and killing animals. Of course, he doesn't stop there. He soon moves on to humans and the killer seems to be targeting the constable's family which includes his ten-year-old grandson Top who is now living with him after the death of his parents in a car crash. The story of the investigation is told mostly through the perspective of Top and his slightly older cousin, Pepper.

This is very different from the kinds of cases which the constable normally handles. He's used to dealing with drunks and moonshiners and the occasional domestic disturbance. This is an entirely different level of evil.

Woven in among the pursuit of the evil-doer is the story of the coming-of-age of Top and Pepper. Thus we get the contrast of their sweet innocence with the pure wickedness of which humans are capable.

Perhaps the strongest part of the story for me was the author's description of the setting. I'm pretty familiar with small East Texas towns and I found his descriptions of the culture of those places to be spot on. Moreover, the characters as he described them fit right into that setting. It's a community that is replete with small-town Western values, where everyone knows everyone and neighbors will look out for their neighbors. While the writer does tend to somewhat gloss over the racial tensions of that era, I think he gets the overall atmosphere pretty much right. And his characters are people that the reader can identify with and care about. This was a good start for the series and it left me wanting to read more about these people.

Comments

  1. This sounds like my type of book! Thank you. P. x

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  2. I've enjoyed this series, and in many ways I regret that Wortham seems to have moved on from it. I agree that the setting is the real strength in the books, and what surprised me is how similar small East Texas towns at that time were to small central Illinois towns (which is where I grew up).

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    Replies
    1. I didn't realize the author had moved on from it. That seems a shame. There is plenty of material there.

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