Gerry Spence’s Blood on the Table is a story focusing, chiefly, on an individual named Ringo. He is a farmboy, and eventually goes off to school. At the same time, his past includes a particularly disturbing combination of events which lead to a trial.
Rather than starting before the trial, the reader is given a glimpse,of Ringo heading off to college, and being harassed by a lawman who feels,the need to cause him a bit of trouble. A local homeless individual intervening is all that protects the boy in the end. It is a very short sequence that lets the reader know a good defense lawyer and the corruption of local authorities are going to play a significant part.
It is not long after this that the reader is thrown back seven years, to the childhood of young Ringo in Wyoming. The reader learns that his real name is Ben, like his father, and that he chose the name and stuck to it. Spence describes how the boy is willing to prove himself to his father, and how he is a quieter more sensitive child, than his father perhaps knows how to handle. His teacher also quickly is found dead.
The police in the town, corrupt at the core, immediately begin pushing to prove little Ringo a killer, in spite of evidence that he was driving away, in a school bus, with dozens of witnesses, at the time. They pull over his father and immediately charge him with obstructing justice,and resisting arrest. The type of town this is will he familiar to anyone who lives in a rural area, or has in the past. The deputy who works hard to make sure he gets sexual favors from the mother is no different, and the disturbing series of events this leads to is only unbelievable in that the eventually dying deputy is in any way apologetic.
This is a relatively short volume, just over 300 pages. Given that many current legal thrillers are double that length or more, it is quite nice to see such a well polished bit of narrative. Far too many volumes, even from masterful authors, drag on linger than necessary to keep reader interest or keep the natrative believable.
Many characters are fairly broadly drawn, yet they habe a ring of truth to someone who has seen farmland surrounding them and a judge gleefully consorting with the prosecution. The fact aforementioned judge is an elected official rather than appointed, pleasing to his motivations as corruption is bred further through his desire to stay in office.
Politics, like the law, is filled with corruption. In a small town the overlap between the two can quite often lead to one another.
There is, amusingly, a mystery in the story that is quickly pushed to the back. It is never,explicitly solved, although clues are in place and even one corrupt deputy manages to put two and two together and avoid saying the word four out loud. There is a certain satisfaction to reading this book, simply in noticing how each inciting incident is pushed to the rear of the mind. More gruesome, protracted, and horrifying events come to build on each other. As a result the story fails to focus on the first murder, allowing it to be brought up now and again.
Gerry Spence is an old hand in crime writing, both fiction and nonfiction.Blood on the Table fits well into the legal-thriller genre, while also using the switch in era quite well. To anyone looking for a nice period legal thriller this would be an excellent volume to pick up.