Vengeance Is Mine (A Red River Mystery)
By Reavis Z. Wortham
Vengeance Is Mine is the latest book in Wortham’s Red River Mystery Series. It opens with a hit man getting an assignment in Las Vegas 1967. Anthony Agrioli has not gone soft, but when he sees a couple of kids on the list, something begins to stir inside him. After deciding to double-cross his gangster boss and get out of the killing business, he picks up a hot babe and heads out of town. They set out on a path that may lead them to their own destruction.
The couple ends up in a small town in northeast Texas, hoping to lead a quiet, unassuming life far away from the glitz, glamour and guns that defined their previous life. They quickly find small towns are friendly, but a bit wary of newcomers. The town might be tiny, but it has more than its share of quirky characters and all of them are interested in finding out what makes the city slickers tick.
Top Parker and his cousin Pepper are barely into their teens and both of them are too curious for their own good. Their uncle Cody is the constable, who tries to keep a handle on them, but it is not easy. The teens are not especially defiant, but feel they know better than the grown-ups in their lives do when it comes to dangerous situations.
The teens have a starring role, and this part of the story is masterfully understated, but forever present. Pepper is chafing against the constraints of small town life, complaining she wants to move to California where rock & roll and freedom can become her new way of life. Top has challenges of his own. He must act like a man when his dog is mauled by a pack of wild dogs, even if it means doing something he does not want to do. Both of them are maturing, but still need guidance and nurturing. Their close family and network of friends and neighbors in this tiny community fill that need.
Their Uncle Cody is hindered by working under a sheriff with questionable morals and dealings. The real trouble begins when gangsters roll into town looking for Agrioli. A storm is brewing both figuratively and literally. Unfortunately, bullets will fly and someone will die.
Top’s grandmother is a Choctaw who has experienced racism, and teaches others by example that acceptance of others is necessary. She invites an African American family into her home when others would not, not thinking twice about what others may think. There is an interesting twist that involves her native language that I will let you discover yourselves.
This novel moves faster than a sidewinder, and you might want to speed through it to see what is going to happen next. Try to slow down a bit and savor the layers and intricate connections with all of the subplots and the main plot. Wortham addresses many social and personal issues with his interesting and complicated characters. He combines unlikely elements including a dead body, a group of gangsters, raging hormones, a bank robbery and a young man whose dreams are premonitions to draw readers in and hold them until the very last page.
This is the first Red River Mystery I have read. It worked fine as a stand-alone novel, but there were references to things that happened in earlier novels that I would have liked to know a bit more about. I guess I will read the previous books in the series to find out.