Where the Hurt Is - Book Review

Where the Hurt Is

Author: Chris Kelsey
Genre: Fiction - Mystery - General
Date Published: June 21, 2018
ISBN-10: 1684330718
ISBN-13: 9781684330713

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Book Review of :  Where the Hurt Is


“Where the Hurt Is,” by Chris Kelsey is a novel about a small town police chief, Emmett Hardy who struggles to find justice for a very disturbing murder of a young African American woman. The story takes place during the late sixties in Burr, Oklahoma, a mostly white town just east of the Texas state line.

Chief Hardy is called up one evening because a 1,800-pound pig is missing named Daffodil which just happens to be the pride of the town.  It’s owned by, Edgar Bixby, one of the wealthiest and most prominent citizens of Burr, Oklahoma. Chief Hardy is no fan of Bixby, but Edgar has political clout and Deke, his younger brother is on the town council.  The novel begins with this somewhat comical situation for Chief Hardy but it doesn’t stay that way very long. A naked young beautiful African American woman is found dead near the train tracks running through town. Kelsey provides vivid imagery of the battered body and the crime scene in general. 

Kelsey’s unflinching narrative is often disturbing, but it's an important and necessary way of articulating the frequent events of murder, injustice, and powerlessness of African Americans during the sixties. It's a rumination on poverty, class power, social injustices, class privileges, depravity, and human cruelty. A forbidden interracial romance between the son of a prominent white family and a young black woman is woven into the story. Race was a major issue in the sixties and Burr, Oklahoma was very much a town where hooded Klan members would proudly march in town parades. The book paints a factual and mesmerizing picture of what life was like in small racist towns during the 1960's. The horrific crime committed on the young woman creates a small ripple of interest in the town but it is quickly brushed aside as nothing that is of any real concern to the constituency of Burr. 

“Where the Hurt Is,”weaves a darkly haunting tale about the 'business as usual' mentality of racism in America. Kelsey does an incredible job of presenting a believable cast of characters for his murder mystery. His victim is an individual whose views of love and sex are amoral or aberrant, to say the least, but the sixties were a baffling time in regards to sex. Promiscuity was rampant and sexual norms were skewered to the point where women often felt it was their obligation to have sex with men they barely knew. Chief Hardy is a very likable guy, witty, rugged, crafty but fallible and a formidable foe if you’re the bad guy. He is the kind of small-town cop who won’t give up the fight to solve a heinous crime even when most the town’s folks feel his investigation is a waste of his time and their tax money. The novel is brooding and littered with the raw language of racism.  It is a masterful and moving account of a murder and the racial injustice of the sixties where racist in power clung to any vestige of the privileges they felt were exclusively theirs. Chief Hardy’s herculean efforts try to break through these barriers to right an ugly wrong.

Do yourself a favor and pick this up. I promise you won't regret it.


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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By: Patricia ThursbyDate: 08/13/2018 13:26:32
I really liked this book but there are far too many missed words to really enjoy it without distraction.  Mr Kelseys's proofreader needs a proofreader

By: ELLIE HGGERTYDate: 07/14/2018 16:50:57

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