Fresh Meat: Wrecked by Tricia Fields

Wrecked by Tricia Fields is the third book in the series about West Texas Chief of Police Josie Gray, who is tasked with finding her lover, a man who is missing and suspected of murder (available March 4, 2014).

Josie Gray, Chief of Police of a small West Texas town, is a tough, capable woman, but her strength is put to the test when her lover, Dillon Reese, goes missing. Dillon’s secretary is dead, his office ransacked, and his car is gone. Did he flee for his life? Or did he flee from the crime?

Distraught as she is, Josie has to maintain her professional composure and proceed with the investigation in her normal, methodical way. However, to do this, she has to turn the investigation over to her lead detective, Otto, allowing him to take charge. Though it’s for the best, it still grates against her need for control and leadership.

Adding to her troubles, the mayor, who dislikes women in leadership roles, is dragging her into his dirty little affairs, providing another distraction.

Though this is a series book, it stands alone well. There is reference to the other two books, but it doesn’t slow the story or leave you with unanswered questions. Since I’ve never read the series, I’m going to back to catch up with the other two just for the pleasure of reading this author again.

It’s difficult to share plot elements because Tricia does such a masterful job of revealing clues in small measure. I certainly don’t want to give anything away. In this scene, Josie is beginning to feel a nagging that something is wrong.

Finally, at eight-forty-five, he sent a brief text back. Can’t make it. She read the message and looked at Dell, perplexed.

“What’s that look for?” he asked.

She told him what the message said and he shrugged. “Guess he can’t make it.”

“It doesn’t sound like him. I can’t believe he wouldn’t at least call.”

Dell continued eating.

After several minutes she said, “You suppose I should run by his office? Make sure something isn’t wrong?”

“Maybe the pencil pusher and the secretary are together,” he said. He turned his head to face her, then apparently realized how his comment had sounded. “On business. Maybe they had work to do. Had to work over.”

Josie ate the rest of her dinner in silence, worried about Dillon, as well as the plausibility of Dell’s remark. She tried to focus her thoughts elsewhere as she packed up the cooler after dinner. “You splitting all this wood tomorrow?” she asked.

“Need to let it dry first. I’ll stack it outside the barn.”

She nodded.

“This old man’s going home to bed. You worked me too hard. Do yourself a favor. Go drive by his house and his office. You won’t sleep tonight if you don’t.”

Josie is not only struggling to find Dillon, she is trying to unravel the mystery of why the kidnappers think the chief of police in a small town has access to millions of dollars for ransom. It didn’t make sense. Dillon isn’t rich, and Josie certainly isn’t. Yet the kidnappers are convinced she can deliver. Why?

Now Josie is filled with desperation of waiting and wondering. Is Dillon still alive? How will the kidnappers hurt him when she can’t get the money?

While Josie continues to function every day, she carries the guilt, the fear, the agony of knowing every hour that passes brings Dillon closer to death…or something even worse. Otto also carries around the weight of that guilt and fear, but handles in a little differently.

At two o’clock Otto walked down the block from the office to the Hot Tamale for a bologna sandwich and a bag of chips. The front door of the diner opened up into a seating area with about fifteen tables and a slew of chairs that were in constant flux. Customers came in and moved tables and chairs to fit whatever setup they needed. Otto took his customary table next to the window facing the courthouse at the front of the diner, but then sat with his back to the room and shoved the chair opposite him over to another empty table, making what he thought to be quite a clear signal that he wasn’t interested in conversation. However, the owner, Lucy Ramone, wasn’t always keen on social cues. She was a short woman in her late forties with long black hair and a bossy personality. She special-ordered Polish kraut and quality bologna for Otto in exchange for what she called “preferential treatment,” which to her meant getting the gossip before everyone else. Lucy knew as well as Otto that she never received such treatment, but Otto allowed the farce to go on, if only for the grilled bologna and kraut.

Lucy now placed his meal in before him and without another word dragged a chair over to Otto’s table. She hurried away and came back a minute later with a soft drink for herself, dropping into the chair with a huff. “What a day. Hurry, hurry all morning long, then lunch slammed us.” Otto took a few big bites, hoping to ease his hunger before Lucy demanded conversation.

“You know we love you, Otto. But you police need to do a better job informing the citizens. We’re not New York City. We don’t have news conferences and briefings about big cases. Any progress on Christina’s murder? And what’s happened to Dillon? Any word from him? We heard it’s a kidnapping, but who knows what’s rumor and what isn’t?”

Otto placed his sandwich on his plate and wiped his mouth. As he laid his napkin back in his lap he noticed the place had grown quiet. He looked to the back of the diner and saw three customers and two waitresses staring at him, apparently waiting for a response. He sighed, glared at Lucy, who smiled in return, and rose from his chair to face the room.

Scenes like this are woven in the tapestry of a great story to keep information coming and action moving forward. Everybody knows a small town isn’t going to sit still when something like this is going on.

It has been awhile since I read a book that was so gripping. I read one morning until 2:30 a.m. and regretfully put the book down to go to bed. The suspense is taut and stays that way throughout the book. The story is compelling, well plotted, and obviously researched deeply. Tricia not only presented the police procedures carefully and correctly, she did a great job on the criminal’s side of the aisle too. It’s easy to see why The Territory won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best First Mystery in 2010.

This is just a tiny glimpse of how well Tricia Fields lays out her story. She skillfully leads her characters through each step of the process, making it agonizing for the reader to put down the book without knowing what will happen next. If you love a straight mystery, you’ll love this book. Let’s just say it will hold you captive until you finish it!

See more new releases at our Fresh Meat feature page.

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Leigh Neely is a former journalist and editor who now writes fiction with her writing partner, Jan Powell. The first book of “The Connelly Witches” miniseries for Harlequin E is out now. Witch’s Awakening by Neely Powell introduces Brenna Connelly as she deals with the family’s centuries-old curse. Leigh also writes for the popular blog, WomenofMystery.net.

Read all posts by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element.

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