Vengeance Is Mine

Written by Reavis Z. Wortham
Review by Richard Bourgeois

Center Springs is a small Texas town stuffed with quaint characters, ably served by lawman Ned Parker. In this fourth installment of the Red River Mystery series, the locals welcome a former mafia triggerman on the lam from the Las Vegas don he double-crossed. Tony Agrioli just wants to hang up his .45 and settle down, but in a spectacular case of bad judgment he picked the one spot in the middle of nowhere where anyone would know him. A neighboring sheriff, “crooked as a dog’s hind leg” and perpetual enemy of the Parkers, recognizes Tony from a shady deal in Vegas. Soon the sheriff’s forces, along with two carloads of Mafia goons, converge on Center Springs like spokes toward the hub of a wheel. Oh, and there’s an unsolved murder of a local besides, found shot through the head in the front seat of his truck but clearly not killed there.

I might have enjoyed this story more if I’d read any of the earlier books. Callbacks to previous murders clutter the narrative, which alternates between third-person views and the first person of a thirteen-year-old boy. I found that choice confusing, as very little of the main plot took place in the boy’s view; generally if there is only one first person narrator in a book, he’s a lot closer to the action. I was also distracted by the murder mystery subplot, which turns out to not really be a murder at all, and not much of a mystery either. Wortham’s pacing is tight and the action solid; stripped of loose threads this could stand as a thriller.