“Given the right set of circumstances I think we’re all capable of doing bad.” (Page 289)


The right set of circumstances has come together in this second novel from author Tricia Fields following last year’s powerful debut The Territory. In fact, “the right set of circumstances” happens over and over again in a variety of ways resulting in numerous life and death situations as well as plenty of good old fashioned luck. In fact, it happens so often at precisely the right time, there is a strong hint of deus ex machina at work throughout the book.


“The right set of circumstances” happens from early on when Police Chief Josie Gray leaves home at noon in the June heat to begin her shift. On her way to the station, she decides to stop for a few minutes at the nearby watch tower. She climbs the tower at random times so she can evaluate the local area of the Chihuahuan Desert and keep eyes on Piedra Labrada, the staging point for recent cartel violence that crossed the border and rocked the small southwest Texas border town of Artemis. Things have calmed down for now, but memories are very fresh, and the 33 year old police chief expects the violence to flare again at any time.


As she drove toward the watch tower, Chief Gray didn’t expect to find the car of former jail employer Cassidy Harper parked nearby on Scratchgravel Road. Cassidy is a decent enough person, but, she has made a few bad decisions and that includes the man in her life. She seems to have made another as she left her car and apparently walked off into the desert under a blistering noonday sun. Chief Gray heads off road and into the desert with her jeep and soon finds an unconscious Cassidy. She also finds her lying next to a man who clearly has been dead for days.


That discovery, a runaway teenage daughter of a fellow office, and the start of a monsoon season that breaks 100 year flood records are just some of the many factors at work in this complicated second novel of the series. While the heavy rains depicted in this novel may strike native Texans such as myself as way over the top as they simply do not happen the way they are depicted, the rest of the novel featuring multiple storylines works well. Josie remains a strong and interesting character and a number of secondary characters are allowed to bring forth their own rich and varied perspectives in Scratchgravel Road. That character development further brings to life the small town while also adding depth and complexity to those involved. While not nearly as good as The Territory the novel does work fairly well and keeps the reader entertained.


Scratchgravel Road: A Mystery

Tricia Fields


Minotaur Books (A Thomas Dunne Book)


March 2013

ISBN# 978-1-250-02136-6

Hardback (also available as e-book and audio)

310 Pages



Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple ©2013

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