The Long Count

Written by JM Gulvin
Review by G. J. Berger

It’s the start of a hot Texas summer in 1967. Ranger John Quarrie is asked to take the long drive over to Marion County, where local police need his help in solving the brutal beating of a cop. John Q’s dispatcher interrupts the drive with a call to check on another “incident” not far out of the way. The incident looks like the suicide of a middle-aged military veteran, though John Q does not buy it. The dead man’s young son, Isaac, returns home after three tours of duty in Vietnam intending to surprise his now suddenly dead father. John Q and Isaac set out to find the killer or killers.

Strange little discoveries pull John Q and readers forward. More dead bodies turn up. The hunt accelerates and grows both more complex and ominous. John Q sees connections in the killings. Suspicion falls on Isaac’s twin brother, Ishmael, believed to have died in the fire of a local asylum for the insane but perhaps not.

Gulvin’s portrayal of widower and single father John Q works well. The crime details and settings ring true. Lesser characters are intensely human and interesting. The main plot and several subplots challenge logic but come together in a rousing ending that will surprise some readers and cause others to shout, “I knew it!”