Coyote Revenge, by Fred Harris 0060183969
Four out of five stars
The setting is Oklahoma during the late 1930s. It is a time of great poverty, even the best jobs available barely pay enough to feed a family. Okie Dunn was a good student in high school, his grades and obvious talents were enough to get him admitted to law school. However, there was an unfortunate mishap and he was expelled. For some time, Okie made his living as a boxer, it was a scratch existence, but gave him valuable experience.
Back in his home town of Vernon, Oklahoma, Okie now trades in cattle and is establishing and solidifying old relationships. Two years earlier, a man and his wife were found shot in their house that had burned down. The local doctor was of questionable competence and the ruling was a murder suicide, with the killer torching the house before the self-inflicted fatal wound.
When Okie’s buddy that was the sheriff was shot in the back and killed, Okie is asked to take the position and he accepts. Other than his routine duties, Okie investigates the murder and during that process, he learns that the death of the couple was in fact a double murder. The location of the entry and exit wounds precluded that conclusion.
While the crime investigation is the prime plot device, the context of the story is also significant, as it is deep. Okie is close friends with the local Native Americans, there is the possibility of an oil strike, his father is a cantankerous man with wisdom and grudges and there are the constant reminders of how poor the people are. As a murder mystery, the story is just average, but as a historical context with supporting characters, it is first rate.