The Contract: A John Q Mystery

Written by JM Gulvin
Review by K. M. Sandrick

The Contract is the second in the John Quarrie (John Q) series of 1960s crime novels by author J M Gulvin, who splits his time between Wales and the Western US. This time, a shootout and murder in Wichita Falls, Texas, leave scraps of evidence John Q follows to New Orleans, where he uncovers a wide-ranging murder-for-hire conspiracy.

Widower Quarrie is a likable character: a no-nonsense Texas Ranger who has a warm relationship with his ten-year-old son and a strong friendship with fellow Korean War vet Pious. In New Orleans he meets other, nuanced supporting characters: black jazz singer Gigi Matisse and her Nana.

Descriptions of settings are sparse; the reliance on action and dialogue make for a quick, but sometimes confusing, pace when it’s not entirely clear where to place characters in context. While John Q is a newcomer in the city of New Orleans and soon falls under the watchful eyes of conspirators and local police, he travels easily throughout the city. A significant plot twist near the end is less than satisfactory; it does not produce an “a-ha” moment but a where-did-that-come-from?

I nonetheless enjoyed The Contract and look forward to another John Q adventure. I just wish this Contract had more definitive narrative clauses along the way.