The Right Side of Wrong
Review: After Constable Cody Parker is lured into a trap, shot and left for dead, his uncle Constable Ned Parker wants to know why in The Right Side of Wrong, the third mystery in this series set in Northeast Texas along the Red River by Reavis Z. Wortham.
Cody can't for the life of him figure out why someone would want to kill him, leaving the investigation at a stand-still. But Ned has plenty to keep him busy: two bodies have been found near an unused still. Ned figures that someone might be trying to send a message, but it doesn't add up. It isn't until he crosses the border into Oklahoma to ask questions in Cody's bar — as Ned puts it, "Few constables could live on what the county paid. [He] farmed. Cody ran a joint." — that he becomes suspicious of a man he finds drinking there, Vince Whitlatch, one not from the area and one not afraid of the law. Ned figures that Whitlatch might know something about the bodies and maybe even something about who tried to kill his nephew. But it's Cody who ultimately figures it out … yet with no evidence to support his suspicions, he can't do much about it.
Set in 1965, The Right Side of Wrong mixes a few metaphors here, notably "the right side of the law" and "the wrong side of the river". The sides are a distinct shade of gray, the law is open to interpretation, and there are two rivers in the storyline, the Red River dividing Oklahoma and Texas, and the Rio Grande separating the US and Mexico. Both Oklahoma and Mexico come across as lawless frontier lands; how accurate that is (or was) is open to debate. The story itself is told in third person interspersed with chapters in first person from the perspective of Ned's grandson, Top. The third person narrative has a laid-back feel to it perfectly matching the persona of the extended Parker family. But it can also crackle with energy and excitement, as it does in (probably not coincidentally) the bar scene in Oklahoma and the jailbreak scene in Mexico. Being much lighter in tone, Top's chapters seem somewhat out of place, though they do add a bit of levity and balance to the down-to-business investigation undertaken by Ned and Cody. Not so much a whodunit — although there is that element to the story — this novel is more of a slice-of-life adventure for the Parker family, and a glimpse of what it might have been like to be the law in rural Texas in the mid-1960s. A different kind of a mystery, to be sure, but a satisfying one nonetheless.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of The Right Side of Wrong for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Right Side of Wrong: Northeast Texas; Oklahoma; Mexico
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The Right Side of Wrong by Reavis Z. Wortham — A Red River Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: July 2013
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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