Junker Blues - Book Review

Junker Blues

Author: Chris Kelsey
Genre: Fiction - Mystery - General
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: 00 , 0000
ISBN-10: 1684339545
ISBN-13: 9781684339549

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Book Review of :  Junker Blues


Award-winning Author Chris Kelsey has another intriguing mystery in his 1970s-era novel, Junker Blues. The protagonist, Emmett Hardy, is the chief of police in the tiny Oklahoma town of Burr. Chief Hardy is the kind of guy who cares about his town; he has a few of his own demons but, in general, uses his power for good. A sudden economic boom in local oil exploration and drilling has thrust his sleepy town into an era of big city prosperity. Along with the good, however, came illegal drug trafficking, an unexplained murder, missing persons, and overlapping feuding police forces.

Kelsey knows his characters well. He comments that as a result of the town's prosperity, a twelve-year-old boy would rather be considered a petty criminal than a friend of law enforcement. Emmett, the police chief, is aware of the intrusion of illegal drugs and the detrimental use of alcohol. Underaged drinking is common knowledge but hard to enforce. Through Emmett's eyes, the reader is made aware of the author's ability to create memorable characters with descriptions like, "His greasy dark hair nicely complimented his greasy five o'clock shadow. He looked like Bluto after Popeye'd kicked the hell out of him, except he was as skinny as Olive Oyl.

 A mentally disabled twenty-something young man, Freddie, is discovered murdered execution-style. The murder sets off a chain of mysterious events that entail Emmett's undercover cooperation with local and state authorities. Through the identification of evidence, the murder is loosely tied to the murder of a family in another town, and the murder of a hitchhiker in yet another distant town. While fighting his own demons, Emmitt searched for Freddie's killer. His personal life and his own misjudgments interfere with rational judgement and cause him to misinterpret clues. The juxtaposition of clues and mistakes creates plenty of suspense.

While the reader wants the chief of police to be a hero, the author makes sure that Emmett is portrayed as a fallible human being who makes mistakes. Emmett questions his working of the case. "I might not be… Sherlock Holmes, but I'm smart enough to know that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever you have left -no matter how improbable- must be the truth."

 Carefully hidden "red herrings" and veiled humor intensify the plot. As chaos and bloodshed increase, the author's realistic descriptions of police actions intensify. Minor characters who have been introduced into the plot become significant players. Emmett admits that he has been wrong in the investigation and in his personal life. As the tension warps up, you wonder if he can pull things together.

Junker Blues is seductive . . . blunt, and crude, but an awesome story. Kelsey has created a  thriller with a crime solver who "resonates with originality and energy. A thoroughly enjoyable 'page turner' that can keep you up past your bedtime! 

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Chris Kelsey

Chris Kelsey grew up in Oklahoma, the son of a jazz musician and a school librarian. He's played the saxophone since he was knee-high to an armadillo and made a name for himself playing, teaching, and writing about strange and obtuse forms of modern jazz. Chris currently lives in Dutchess County, NY, with his wife Lisa, son Jasper, and daughter Meret. "Where the Hurt Is," is Kelsey's first novel.

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