Thursday, April 19, 2018

Covey Jencks by Shelton L. Williams

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
Date of Publication: February 10, 2018
Pages: 229

Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, D.C. back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

I fell in love with this book before I started reading the actual story. The foreword by author Shelton "Shelly" Williams warmed my heart. I knew I was about to partake in the creative genius of one who was not only a talented writer but also socially-aware and compassionate. 

I will start here: Covey Jencks is the title of the book and also the protagonist. I read a paperback copy, and, as per usual, I read everywhere I can: on solo lunch and dinner breaks, in the grocery story line, at Starbucks. Everywhere I read this book, strangers were drawn in by the cover and wanted to know what Covey Jencks meant. (You're welcome, Shelly, I've been selling this book for weeks for you!)    

Covey Jencks is about an attorney who leaves Washington D.C. to return to his hometown of Odessa in west Texas to help correctly solve the murder of Freddie, a working girl, from the late 70s. The story takes place in the mid-90s. This might seem odd because the story could have easily been set in present-day; however, I appreciated the return to that time period. The AOL references made me chuckle. (Come on, if you were born before the mid-80s, you know you had an aol email address at one time. No judgment here if you still have one. Ha!) Anyhow, Freddie's husband had confessed to her murder and served time due to the inequities of the legal (read: not justice system). This created years of dissonance for Covey, so he returns on a quest to set things right. The book opens with his return to Texas and from there we meet a myriad of diverse characters who help and hinder his path to the truth. Most memorably is his love interest, JayJay. I'd have to say her quick wit and spunk made her my favorite character of the book. Some might argue that she is just as much the protagonist of the novel as Covey. 

At a little over 200 pages and with very generous margins in the print copy, this book is a quick read. The content and storyline propels the reader a few decades into the past and encourages one to continue turning the pages until the mystery is solved. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. The large cast of characters made it a little confusing at times, but thankfully, the author smartly added a listing of each character with short description at the beginning. I found myself referring to this dog-earred (Yes, I'm one of those readers!) page often. Additionally, the unexpected perspective changes and dialogue without speaker identifiers (e.g., Covey said, JayJay questioned, etc.) added to my confusion. However, with careful reading and some re-reading, I was very pleased with the pace and final outcome. 

Recommendation: Treat yourself to a fast-paced murder mystery set deep in the heart of Texas. But don't jump right into the story, be sure to read that foreword as well as the Williams' ending afterword notes. I can't wait for his next work of fiction to be published! 

Until next time ... Read on!

I just love Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls! They are a modern couple who remind me of Nick and Nora in West Texas. Characters, crimes, and social commentary leap off the page. Shelly can tell a story! ~Deborah Crombie, author of the award-winning mysteries of Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid

I loved the story, the writing, and the prospects for future Covey Jencks adventures, but what I love the most, as an African- American author and documenter of human experience, is the proof that this work presents of the inextricability of Black and White lives in America. ~Sharon T. Freeman, CEO of Gems of Wisdom Consulting, author of 24 books, and global development expert

A dead body and a miscarriage of justice? What is a West Texas boy to do? Well, Covey Jencks, an Odessa native who knows some secrets, spurns his job with a Washington, DC law firm, and heads back to his hometown to solve the crime. ~Prudence Mackintosh, Contributing Editor, Texas Monthly, author of Thundering Sneakers and more

"I have unfinished business in Odessa, by God, Texas." And with that, we are off on a wild ride with Covey Jencks as he tries to find out who killed Freddie Mae Johnson, a black prostitute, when Covey was a junior in high school. If you like your detectives to be misfits who chafe at the social rules, idealists who try to find the order behind apparent chaos, attractors of a cast of characters as contradictory as the detective is, you will grab hold of Covey and hang on until the end of the ride. When you get there, you'll know for sure that you've been somewhere. ~Carol Daeley, Professor Emerita of English, Austin College

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
Connect with Shelly: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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  1. I love that this is set in the '90s! And I love an author who is socially aware. He calls it a "social thriller" and from your review, I see why. Thanks for a great post!