Willie Black is a newspaper reporter who has squandered a lot of things in this life - his liver, his lungs, a couple of former wives and a floundering daughter can all attest to his abuse. He's lucky to be employed, having managed to drink and smart-talk his way out of a nice, cushy job covering (and partying with) the politicians down at the capitol.
Now, he's back on the night cops' beat, right where he started when he first came to work at the Richmond paper almost thirty years ago. The thing Willie's always had going for him, though, all the way back to his hardscrabble days as a mixed-race kid on Oregon Hill, where white was the primary color and fighting was everyone's favorite leisure pastime, was grit. His mother, the drug-addled Peggy, gave him that if nothing else. He never backed down then, and he shows no signs of changing.
When a co-ed at the local university where Willi'es daughter is a perpetual student is murdered, her headless body founf alongside the South Anna River, the hapless killer is arrested within days. Everyone but Willie seems to think: case closed. But Willie, against the orders and advice of his boses at the paper, the police and just about everyone else, doesn't think the case is solved at all. He embarks on a one-man crusade to do what he's always done: Get the story.
On the way, Willie runs afoul of David Junior Shiflett, a nightmare from his youth who's now a city cop, and awakens another dark force who everyone thought had disappeared a long time ago. As a result, a score born in the parking lot of an Oregon Hill beer joint forty years before will finally be settled.
The truth is out there. Willie Black's going to dig it out or die trying.
"Owen has recruited his sick, sad and creatively crazy characters from a rough neighborhood cut off from the rest of the city. If anyone is watching out for the forgotten citizens of Oregon Hill, it’s Willie, who grew up there and speaks the local language, a crisp and colorful urban idiom we can’t wait to hear again."--The New York Times
"Owen knows his setting, his dialogue is spot-on and his grasp of the down-and-dirty work of the police and news reporters lends authenticity to the narrative. This is Southern literature as expected, with a touch of noir, and with a touch of Dennis Lehane s Mystic River. Willie Black deserves a sequel." --Kirkus
"Off-beat characters such as peripatetic drifter Awesome Dude, and Owen's spot-on take on the slow death of a newspaper (shrinking pages, repeated staff cuts, on-line presence, blogging, etc.) add ballast. The deft and surprising plot builds to a satisfying ending. Readers will hope that Willie will soon return in a sequel."--Publishers Weekly
"Place and culture play such a vital part in this mystery, the question is not so much who-dun-it as what-isn't-he-telling and how-does-he-know. The narrator' voice is convincing throughout and the characters leap from the page. Acts of remembrance, compassion and love are redefined by accident, choice or conviction. And the reader is pulled into the realities and compromises of an imperfect world, made just perfect enough in this story to carry the weight of hope and a future."--Café Libre