Covey Jencks Cover

Covey Jencks

Shelton L. Williams
Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller
Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC
Publication Date: February 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 229 pages
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, DC 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! 

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.
This book has been revised and re-published since the edition I reviewed.

Covey Jencks, for the most part, takes place in West – by God – Texas, in Odessa.  If you have ever been there, even passing through, it would definitely add to the ambiance of this story.  If you haven’t been there – it’s okay.  But when you’re trying to visualize the setting and you’re seeing nothing, you’re not doing it wrong.  And it’s not the author’s fault, either.  That’s just West – by God – Texas.  The author does a pretty good job of capturing the essence of racial boundaries and the “good ol’ boy” concept of that era.  If you enjoy the conflict of fiction, then you will love this story.  Conflict exists on multiple layers, yet they all flow together very smoothly, and I love the way Williams kneaded the conflict to arrive at the ultimate climax.  (Good luck trying to put this book down during the last 75 pages or so.)  It was very evident from the beginning of the book that the author had a story to tell, and he told it quite well.

The Oddity of Covey Jencks

I found several things in this book to be quite odd.  I read the paperback edition, so I do not know whether these oddities found their way into the Kindle edition.

The first oddity was the Table of Contents (ToC).  Of the 74 chapters and Afterward listed in the ToC, why is Chapter 4 displayed in a different font than all the others?

I also found it a bit odd that the book included a Cast of Characters just before the ToC.  I’ve seen a Cast of Characters in a few other books, but they were mostly fantasy or “pretty far out there” in terms of realism.  However, there are quite a few characters in this story, and I’m sure the Cast of Characters could help a reader.  Since I’m not used to having that in a book, I completely forgot about it until I was finished.

Also, why is there so much white space in this book?  The top and bottom margins are HUGE!

The final oddity I noticed was the lack of page numbers in the Afterward.  Maybe that’s common, I don’t know.  I’m not sure I ever read a book with an Afterward before.  I read plenty of Epilogues, though.  However, I did enjoy reading the short Afterward.  The author provides some insight into how the story came about, as well as some other tidbits of information about the author’s life.

Technically Speaking

There were a number of SPAG issues throughout the book.  There were some obvious typos, and…  Have you ever wanted to order a large box of commas from Amazon and have it direct-shipped to the author?  It’s like that.  However, the SPAG issues did not take away from my enjoyment of the story!  That’s important to mention.

The pacing was quite good.  As is the case with many stories, it was slow in the beginning, sped up in the middle, and the last third of the book was just a non-stop build in conflict.  What makes this story somewhat unique for a mystery is that the murder took place years earlier.  Further, it wasn’t even an unsolved case.  Someone did prison time for the murder.  But Covey Jencks had to find out the truth.

There was a delightful reveal about a character’s backstory at the very end of the story.  It was very unexpected, but it really added to my enjoyment of the book.

I totally admit that I am partial to stories that take place in Texas, and I’ve read quite a few of them.  It was very nice to read a story that takes place there.  I don’t think West Texas gets anywhere near its share of the glory that is Texas.  So, bravo Shelton L. Williams for giving West Texas some literary light!

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.


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.
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