Friday, July 12, 2013

Review of "The Philadelphia Quarry" [52]

The Philadelphia Quarry by Howard Owen
Permanent Press, ISBN 978-1579623357
July 15, 2013, 240 pages

I will admit, when I am hoping to win a book on Library Thing or get one from Amazon Vine, I first look for an author I know and like. But when that is not an option, I will take a change on the unknown. On in this case, get suckered in by the title. So let me be clear. There is no connection to the Pennsylvania city in this book.
Or just a very small one. The quarry where the girl was found tied up and raped 28 years ago once supplied stone use in building the city of brotherly love. But it is located in Richmond, Virginia. And I am fine with that.

The victim was the daughter of one of the city's rich and successful families. The accused and convicted man was a black teenager. He was caught at the quarry, swimming with friends who had broken in and then fled. But Richard was the slowest, got grabbed up by police and was identified by the rape victim.
Now, 28 years later, evidence not possible to test back then, in the form on DNA, has proven his innocence and he is released from prison. But the celebration by his family is short. A few days later, that rape victim from so long ago, Alicia Simpson, is dead, shot in her car on the way to the gym. And that newly released man, Richard Slade, with only his mother to alibi him, is suspect number one, soon back in jail, awaiting trial.

It seems cut and dry, especially if you don't look to deep. But Willie Black is paid to look long as he still has a job. He is a newspaper reporter for the local daily, an industry that has seen better days, with the Internet giving the news away for free. He drink too much, smokes too much, has three ex-wives and a big mouth. A big mouth and a curious interest in this case that is not making his bosses happy. Seems there are a couple of very rich, very powerful folks in Richmond that are happy to believe Slade is guilty, including people powerful enough to convinces the powers that be at the newspaper that there is no need for further investigation.
When Willie ignores orders, he is suspended.
Great, more time to concentrate on his story!
But the next person who wants to shut him up might not be so gentle.

I said at the beginning that the author of this book was unknown to me, and he was, even though he has written 10 books. The last one Oregon Hill, is also about Willie, newspaper man extraordinaire,  another of his dangerous adventures. I might just have to pick that up next, because I liked this book a lot and I like Willie a lot.
Oh, he is flawed, but he is smart and a bit funny, with a slightly buried sense of justice. And the cast of characters surrounding him are great, none better than his weed smoking mom, with her living in boyfriend who has a touch of dementia and a homeless man, Awesome, who lives part time in their quest room. Then there is Kate, the last ex-wife, for whom Willie still has a sweet hankering, not to mention the Slade family, who Willie discovers he is actually related to. Richard, the accused killer is actually his second cousin or something. Seems the father Willie never knew was a light skinned black man and Willie, unknown to him, has been 'passing' as white all his life. Live and learn!

I certainly can't accuse Owen of writing a book that is too long, since the galley weights in at just 222 pages. But it is not too short either. Enough room for some great character development, a good, solid plot and a great little twist at the end which I almost had figure out. Except for being wrong about the killer. And the rapist.

Good, solid book. Love the Richmond setting, the characters, the plot, very well written. What more can you ask?

My thanks to Library Thing and the publisher for proving a review copy.


  1. Too bad about the misleading title! But sounds good anyway!

  2. It sounds like taking a chance paid of this time!


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