Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Texas Job by Reavis Z. Wortham

First Line: The buckskin's hooves landed with soft thuds on the sandy East Texas road.
It's 1931 when Texas Ranger Tom Bell rides into an East Texas oil boomtown where thousands of men have flocked to find work. He's hunting for a fugitive murderer, and it's obvious that the sheriff and his men aren't going to be any help.
But his search for the wanted man uncovers more than he bargained for. Something's not right in this town, and since it does tie into his own search, Bell can't help but ask a few questions here and there. Unfortunately, his investigation stirs up a hornets' nest of resistance. Now Tom Bell is a wanted man himself.
For anyone familiar with Reavis Wortham's Red River mystery series, the name Tom Bell will be a familiar (and welcome) one. Bell is an old man in the 1960s setting of the Red River mysteries, but The Texas Job shows him as a young man in 1931 with more than a touch of Wyatt Earp-like invincibility. 
Wortham aptly describes the boomtown sensibility of Texas oil fields, of everyone out to make as much money as fast as they possibly can. And where there are boatloads of fast money, there are boatloads of outlaws, from petty criminals all the way up to the gangsters of organized crime. These are the days of Pretty Boy Floyd, of Ma Barker, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde. The Texas Job gives readers shootouts and ambushes and twisted, evil plots to grab control of the rights to all that oil and money. And if all that sounds a bit far-fetched, I'd suggest a little additional reading... David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon, for instance. 

But if this sounds like too much action and not enough setting and characterization, think again. The opening scene of The Texas Job is beautiful and lyrical. Wortham paints such a vivid picture that I easily found myself on horseback riding along with Tom Bell. Yes, there is beauty to be found in this book, as well as love, kindness, greed, and ugliness.

And then there's Tom Bell. A man who has to think on his feet in order to stay alive. A man who doesn't see skin color, and as a result meets unforgettable eleven-year-old Booker Johnston, and Booker's friends and family. The bad guys in this book are the types you love to hate, and you want to see them come to bad ends, but it's Bell's interactions with the marginalized there in town that bring a smile to my face and make the story come to life.

If you're a fan of Wortham's Red River mysteries, you already know you have a treat in store for you in The Texas Job. If you haven't made the acquaintance of Tom Bell, there's no time like the present. You're not only going to like him, you're going to want more.

The Texas Job by Reavis Z. Wortham
eISBN: 9781464215711
Poisoned Pen Press © 2022
eBook, 416 pages
Historical Thriller, Red River prequel
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley


  1. I really like the sense of time and place here, Cathy. For me, that's part of what makes historical crime fiction appealing. I'm glad you mentioned what you mentioned about 'too much action;' I do get tired of authors who use action sequences to make up for plotholes. It doesn't sound like that happens here, and that's good to hear. The characters sound appealing, too!

    1. Thee are many appealing things in this book, Margot!


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