Harkness is a superb edgy western murder mystery by debut novelist Michael Bigham.
Sheriff Matthew Harkness investigates the disappearance of two star-crossed teenage lovers. Secrets abound in the Oregon High Desert town of Barnesville, and Harkness must uncover a trail that leads to murder.
In Harkness, Bigham has created a conflicted hero who lives right on the edge of justice. A World War II veteran, Harkness returns to Barnesville and picks up a relationship with the woman he loves. Problem is, she's now married to the town's big-wig, who also happens to be his boss. His fairly regular routine is unsettled when Joey McIntrye, the high school's star football player, goes missing along with his girlfriend, Virginia Kelly. Having lived in Barnesville a long time, Harkness is privy to many secrets, and he must weigh what to reveal in order to help him solve the crime.
The challenge with a character like Matthew Harkness is making him likable enough. In the opening pages he's in bed with the Judge's wife. He drinks too much. Some of the words he uses would curl your mother's hair. He can be a bit violent at times. But overall, Bigham did a fine job of smoothing out those edges to keep the reader rooting for him.
Before I knew I would be helping to promote this book, I had read the first chapter and was totally intrigued. As a lover of westerns and mysteries, Harkness was a great match for me. Bigham delivered a solid story that kept me turning the pages. The tension slowly built to an explosive conclusion. Along the way, there was the comic relief provided by Addison, the wiener dog that adopts Harkness. In the end, I couldn't say I liked most of the people in Barnesville, but I would definitely return for another adventure; see who else is hiding dirty secrets there.
If you like western mysteries and conflicted heroes, you should give Harkness a try.
Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: Muskrat Press (October 17, 2012)
I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author. The author paid me to promote this book through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.
This post first appeared at The Book Connection.