Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Scratchgravel Road"

Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. She is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray.

Fields applied the Page 69 Test to Scratchgravel Road, the follow-up to The Territory, and reported the following:
It turns out, I could only offer a partial excerpt of Page 69 because the mystery hinges on evidence that rests within this scene. Chief of Police, Josie Gray, is visiting Mitchel Cowan, the Arroyo County coroner. The dusty border town of Artemis, Texas is fortunate to have Cowan, a coroner with not only the knowledge to examine a corpse, but the determination to solve a crime.

Josie found the corpse lying next to a local woman who had passed out in the desert on a day forecast to hit 104 degrees. The woman couldn’t explain why she was passed out by the corpse, other than to say she had simply wanted to take a walk. This scene touches on the primary concern for the police throughout the book: the corpse is covered with unidentifiable open wounds on the exposed portions of his body. Perhaps more troubling, the murder is eventually connected to an environmental clean-up that the police suspect is actually a cover-up.

Following is a short excerpt from Page 69, with the spoiler removed…
Cowan pulled away from the body and rested his hands on the gurney, giving his full attention to the question. “In case you haven’t noticed, people skills are not my forte. I did not have the bedside manner people wanted. So, I found a way to practice without having to chitchat.”

“Smart move.”

“I am the primary care physician for the dead,” he said, and bent back over his microscope. “It is gratifying work.”

Josie nodded in admiration. Outwardly Cowan did not appear to be a happy man, but Josie suspected he led a very content life as a loner.

“Have his personal effects been cleared? I want to take them back with me to the evidence locker.”

He looked up and frowned. “Not until I get toxicology back. You’re welcome to pull everything out.” He pointed to a row of six lockers at the end of the wall cabinets. “His effects are in the top locker. Everything is stored in a plastic bag. Just keep your mask and gloves on as a precaution.”

Josie pulled the plastic bag out and laid it on a steel examination table to the right of the table Cowan was using. She pulled out a….
Learn more about the book and author at Tricia Fields's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Territory.

Writers Read: Tricia Fields (November 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue