The Texas Job
reviewed by Pam Guynn
The Texas Job by Wortham gives readers a view of East Texas in 1931 when a huge oil field has been found and towns are exploding with people, oil wells, and the good and bad that came with it. Texas Ranger Tom Bell is tracking a fugitive murderer.
He is examining a dead body before going into town when someone shoots at him. That is the start of an exciting time in this area of Texas. From a sheriff of the boomtown PineTop to the roughnecks working for the oil companies, no one offers him help. In fact, he obviously ruffles some feathers, and multiple attempts on his life occur. As he tries to find the murderer, Tom uncovers more crimes are happening in and around the town. Will he live to solve the cases?
Tom is a young Ranger in this novel and his sense of duty and desire for justice comes through in his character which has more depth than I expected. Interspersed in the narrative are insights into his young history of serving in World War I and dealing with the loss of his wife. This delivered realism and empathy that made him more relatable. Several of the supporting characters had distinct personalities that made the story even more interesting.
The author did extensive research on this period of Texas history during the Great Depression and the oil boom, but also in Oklahoma when oil was discovered under land owned by the Osage Nation, and it shows. While this is not a traditional 1800’s western, it does have similarities with a lone lawman going up against criminals in a good versus evil story and set in a historical period. The writing is descriptive without slowing down the vivid and action-filled plot. This feature created atmosphere that elevated the story line. Readers will rapidly turn the pages and learn about daily life and conditions in boomtowns during the beginning of oil drilling in that part of Texas. Themes include murder, attempted murder, corruption, racism, power, and more.
The action starts out strong, moves at a fast pace, and the suspense continues to build throughout. The author brought a strong sense of place and time to the events in the book. The action somehow managed to seem plausible for the times even though it was definitely extreme. I could easily visualize the towns, the people, the unsanitary conditions in the temporary camps and tent cities, the landscape, and the inability of infrastructure to keep up with the booming population. One thing that stood out for me was the concerns over water and air pollution that showed up even in 1931.
Overall, this book was an engaging and action-filled crime thriller in a historical setting that kept me turning the pages. This is the first book that I have read by this author but it won’t be the last. I highly recommend this novel to those that like his crime thrillers.
Poisoned Pen Press and Reavis Z. Wortham provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for February 15, 2021.
More Historical Mystery