The Rock Hole
Author: Reavis Z. Wortham
Published: June 7, 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press
Series Name: The Red River Series
Main Character: Ned Parker, Cody Parker, John Washington, children Top and Pepper
This book is listed as one of The Best Mystery Novels of 2011, by Kirkus Reviews.
Constable Ned Parker is summoned to a hot cornfield one morning in the small Texas community of Center Springs to examine the remains of a tortured bird dog. There, he finds a dark presence in their quiet community. A farmer by trade, Ned is usually confident when it comes to handling moonshiners, drunks and domestic disputes. But the animal atrocities turn to murder, and the investigation spins beyond his abilities. Ned combines forces with John Washington, the almost mythical black deputy sheriff from nearby Chisum, to track down a disturbed individual who is rapidly becoming a threat to the entire county.
The body count rises as a dizzying twists, eccentric characters and dead-ends force Ned’s friend, cranky Judge O.C. Rains, to contact the FBI. Worse, sinister warnings that his family has been targeted by the killer lead Ned to the startling discovery that he knows the murderer very, very well.
With a heart-pounding pace, country humor and a stunning climax, The Rock Hole speaks to the darkness in us all. The year 1964 was the end of an era in Center Springs, and the climax may well shock your civilized sensibilities.
Kirkus Reviews says:
An accomplished first novel about life and murder in a small Texas town.
Back in the summer of 1964, life is simpler, though probably no less fraught with evil. In Lamar County, Texas, Ned Parker’s the law. He’s a bit long in the tooth but still has that don’t-tread-on-me look that county reprobates have learned to take seriously. And then there’s Top, the constable’s adoring and well-loved 10-year-old grandson. Through them, in alternating chapters, Wortham tells a story of grace under pressure, of what happens when a deranged and vicious predator decides that they’re his promised prey. Local news sources tab him “The Skinner,” and the label is chillingly apt. He starts with small animals, then proceeds to small human beings—mutilated, murdered, their corpses gruesomely displayed as trophies, an idiosyncratic array doubly intimidating in its lack of pattern. Lamar County cowers. Constable Ned is convinced that a vendetta is involved, and though the why of it remains murky, he can no longer doubt its intent. Something noxious is heading for the Parkers. It arrives with breathtaking suddenness, leading to a fast and furious climax, written to the hilt, harrowing in its unpredictability.
Not just scary but funny too, as Wortham nails time and place in a sure-handed, captivating way. There’s a lot of good stuff in this unpretentious gem. Don’t miss it.