Harmon Creek

Written by Thomas Fenske
Review by Angela Moody

In small-town 1930s Texas, Alvin McIntyre is the district attorney. Earl Swanger wants to defeat him. Two weeks before the primary, Earl is killed while stumping for the election. A simple car accident, right? Turns out nothing is simple, and the ensuing investigation calls many things into question.

The accident is no accident. McIntyre has commissioned Betty Johnston and her friend, Freddy Darby, to create an incident to besmirch Earl Swanger’s reputation, but they go too far.

They, Sheriff Steele, and Alvin McIntyre are tropes. But so is Texas Ranger Tim Givens, who’s assigned to investigate. There isn’t a crime Givens can’t solve by talking to himself and looking around at the “evidence.”

The book could have been a thrilling read, except the author gives us the crime in the first chapter and then backtracks, feeding his readers details about how the crime occurred. He could have opened the story with the discovery of Earl’s body and then provided the details of how the crime was committed as the story progressed, but chose not to, which is disappointing.

The characters are one-dimensional, and all talk to themselves to impart information the author wanted his readers to have. That said, the characters Claude, Evie, and Miss Lilly Mae are the most well-developed. The most realistic element is the racial climate of the time, but the author could have done better world-building. He posts the date, time, and location of each incident at the head of each section. This reviewer has never been to Texas and would have liked to have “seen” the surrounding countryside through the author’s eyes. The story is based on a true-crime incident involving an ancestor of the author’s wife.