“Matters of Doubt”

“Matters of Doubt” the first book in the  “Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery” series has been reissued; within a few pages new readers know everything needed to follow along with the narrative. The story unfolds in Calvin Claxton’s first person narrative, a transplant from Los Angeles who runs a one-man law practice in the small town of Dundee, Oregon. He came to Oregon to find some kind of order, some peace in his life, and shares his tranquil existence with his Australian shepherd, Archie.  Immediately he conveys his feel for people, his appreciation for geography, and his general philosophy of life – he would rather be fishing. The plot is driven by his conversations, observations, and self-examination. (“Who was I kidding?”)

Danny Baxter arrives on a bicycle offering to pay Cal to find the person who murdered his mother. (Cal is not sure how he will pay, but the boy offers.)  Baxter lives on the streets, and everyone calls him “Picasso” because he is an accomplished muralist. His mother disappeared several years ago, and her remains turned up in a reservoir. Initially Cal turns down the case, but research and the boy, himself, cause Cal to look more deeply into the case. What he finds is intricate, puzzling, and very complicated. Nicole Baxter’s boyfriend was the initial suspect in the murder, but that went nowhere. Baxter was a reporter working on a “big” story. Was that related to her death? Another death complicates things, and then yet another. Is this just coincidence or something more sinister? Everyone makes mistakes, good people, bad people, innocent people, and guilty ones, but perhaps there are certain people whom one should not cross.

Easley weaves complicated issues into the story including underage homelessness, street art, and artists. The narrative is organized and structured; the investigation is methodical, but even Cal finds the unexpected along the way. I received a review copy of Matters of Doubt” from Warren C. Easley, Sourcebooks, and Poisoned Pen Press. It is quick to read with likeable characters, plenty of suspense, and lots of compassion.