cover image Scuffletown: A Willie Black Mystery

Scuffletown: A Willie Black Mystery

Howard Owen. Permanent, $29.95 (262p) ISBN 978-1-57962-567-2

Owen’s unremarkable seventh mystery featuring Richmond, Va., newspaper reporter Willie Black (after 2017’s The Devil’s Triangle) opens with Black’s editor alerting him to reports of a fight in Scuffletown Park. The journalist discovers that when the police responded to a 911 call of a dispute there, they found nothing, and that the only verification of the anonymous caller’s account were bloodstains on the wall of a nearby alley, spotted hours later by a jogger. That changes when a witness comes forward to assert that he heard a commotion and saw one man standing over the body of a second man; a third man appeared and spoke with the first man, who then left the scene. Black is stunned to learn that the third man, who was photographed, is his roommate and friend, Abe Custalow. Black goes right on working the story, despite the obvious conflict of interest, and shifts into full detective mode after Custalow is arrested and offers no explanation for what happened. The lack of plot surprises makes this one of the weaker entries in this regional series. (Jan.)