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Scratchgravel Road    by Tricia Fields order for
Scratchgravel Road
by Tricia Fields
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Scratchgravel Road is the first Josie Gray mystery that I've read (she also wrote The Territory) and it's a good one. Josie Gray is the tough and competent chief of police in a small Texas town.

As the story opens, she comes across an abandoned car on Scratchgravel Road. Nearby she finds Cassidy Harper, unconscious beside the corpse of a Mexican. Luckily she's in time and Cassidy does not die of heatstroke. She claims that it was pure chance she stumbled upon the body, but Josie suspects that Cassidy's abusive live-in boyfriend Leo, an 'out-of-work physics teacher', is involved.

In the meantime, Teresa, the teen daughter of police officer Marta Cruz, has been on a jaunt with twenty-year-old Enrico, whom her mother had forbidden her to see. Though she doesn't take the drugs Enrico offers her, Teresa knows that she should not go with him to the Hollow, 'a desert hideout accessible by invitation only.' There Teresa sees something she wishes she hadn't.

Back to the body. What is very worrisome to Josie is that the corpse's arms are covered in black-and-purple lesions. She's even more concerned when she learns that the dead man had worked at the Feed Plant, a nearby nuclear weapons plant whose ten year cleanup was contracted to a private company, Beacon Pathways. Were the sores caused by radiation or a contagious virus? Either would be bad news for locals.

As Josie investigates the Feed Plant, a severe thunderstorm builds, with evacuations in progress. Teresa runs away and Marta needs Josie's help to get her back. And as she closes in on a killer, Mother Nature decides to get in on the act and creates another crisis. Josie is an admirable and engaging character and her series is well worth following.

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