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The Philadelphia Quarry by Howard Owen

The Philadelphia Quarry

by Howard Owen

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4214424,278 (3.85)8
Williefinds himself in Richmond at the Quarry, where Alicia Parker Simpson identifiedRichard Slade as her rapist twenty-eight years ago. Five days after DNAevidence freed Slade from the prison system in which he had spent his adultlife, Alicia Simpson was found shot to death. Most people believe that Slade did it, but Willie has his doubts. And when the city's old money tries tocrush the story, he is even more determined to chase what always seems to gethim into trouble: the truth, which draws him back to the Quarry, where it allstarted and in whose murky waters the truth lies.… (more)



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As we learned in the first book of this series, Oregon Hill, reporter Willie Black is not one to back off the story even when his bosses or the powerful elite order him to do so. While those in charge may think it is a character flaw, like his drinking, others would see it as his way of being principled when justice is being denied. The same is true in The Philadelphia Quarry where a wrongfully convicted man is once again arrested for a crime he did not commit.

In August 1983 in the good city of Richmond, Virginia, Richard Slade was arrested for the rape of sixteen year old Ashley Simpson. In May of 1984 he was convicted on little evidence and sent to prison. In the middle of January 2011, he was finally released when DNA evidence proved without a shadow of a doubt that he did not do it despite the fact that Ashley Simpson identified him as her rapist those many years ago. Her accusation was the main evidence against him at the time.

Did she make a horrible mistake or did she deliberately lie?

The Innocence Project may have successfully proven the point that Mr. Slade was innocent of the crime of rape, but nothing can restore Mr. Slade’s reputation in the minds of many or undo what Mr. Slade has gone through all these years in prison. As he was held for a crime he did not do, his reputation took a beating over the years, in large part, due to scathing editorials that came out in the same newspaper that Willie Black works for as a reporter. The paper, through those editorials, has been very vocal in the belief that Mr. Slade was guilty and a threat to the community. Then, as in now, many people did not understand that editorial writers and news reporters share little in common other than being employed by the same paper.

Decades ago, reporter Willie Black worked the night crime beat and reported on the case from the start. All these years later he is back on that same crime beat and thus back on the story of Richard Slade and the victim, Ashley Simpson. In the hours following Mr. Slade’s release, Willie Black is trying to do follow ups with the two principals and isn’t getting any traction with either one of them. Simpson and her well connected family want their privacy while Mr. Slade’s family sees Willie Black as the enemy thanks to the editorials from the paper.

He is getting nowhere at all and then everything changes. Within hours of Mr. Slade’s release, Simpson is shot and dies. Who has the best motive to kill her? A man recently released from prison after being convicted of a rape he did not do or somebody else? Within hours of her death, Richard Slade is again arrested for a crime he did not commit. The elite and powerful close ranks and before long Willie is being asked to choose employment over chasing a story that is clearly going in a different direction than his bosses would like.

The Philadelphia Quarry is a powerful sequel to Oregon Hill. It is a timeless crime fiction tale with plenty of twists and turns. Set in the twin dying worlds of journalism and newspapers, the read powers along at a steady clip while also delivering societal observations that are even more relevant today six years after publication. It is also a mighty good mystery read.

The Philadelphia Quarry
Howard Owen
The Permanent Press
July 2013
ISBN# 978-1-57962-335-7
Hardback (also available in audio, digital, and paper formats)
240 Pages

Material was received and read by way of the Interlibrary Loan Program where a copy owned by the Rockwall County Library System was shared with the Dallas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2019 ( )
  kevinrtipple | Sep 14, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Philadelphia Quarry is the second installment in Howard Owen's excellent series about Willie Black, an older journalist holding on to his job in a dying industry. He's made his share of mistakes and continues to make a few more, but he does have a degree of self-awareness and a compassion for the people around him in Richmond, VA.

Years ago, a black man was convicted of the rape of a wealthy young lady, but DNA evidence has now set him free. Willie Black's newspaper had been vocal in their support of his incarceration, and when the lady in question is murdered soon after his release, the paper renews their editorials calling him a monster. But Black has his doubts, and while he isn't convinced of the man's guilt, he isn't sure he's innocent either. And so Black goes to work ferreting out the truth, no matter who he offends and whether he'll have a job at the end of the day.

Owen's series is a pleasure to read; well plotted and adeptly written, Owen has also created a fascinating protagonist. Black is deeply flawed, but compassionate and very likable. He may not be dependable, but he does try. And he'd be great fun to have a drink with, as long as you aren't depending on him for a ride home. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jul 25, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I must admit, this book grew on me and I found myself totally sucked in to the mystery of who killed Alicia Simpson. Twenty eight years ago Alicia was suppossably raped by a man that is now being released from prison due to DNA evidence. He was not guilty of rape, but when Alicia is murdred on her way to the gym could he be guilty of murder? Polite society seems to think so but burned out chain smoking, alcoholic newspaper man Willie Black, thinks differently. Willie sets out to uncover the truth.

I am not a big mystery who-done-it reader but this book is an exception for me. I loved the character Willie, he is snarky, smart, honest, extremely flawed, sarcastic and trying to do the right thing. Gotta hand it to him, A+ for effort. He's quite the detective. The author gives him a unique voice that I truly enjoyed. Highly recommended. ( )
  erinclark | Jun 28, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Philadelphia Quarry is Howard Owen's second Willie Black mystery. I must go back and read the first one because I love Willie despite myself. He chain smokes unfiltered cigarettes, drinks way too much, cusses like an old-time sailor, and other assorted sins, i.e. has neglected his only child until she is a grown woman and now he's trying to make it up to her. And yet you just have to like this guy. For all his faults, his heart is in the right place and he is (miracle of miracles) a true journalist, a man who actually tries as hard as he can to write the truth regardless of whose toes he steps on.

That last fact is what gets him in trouble in this story. DNA has freed a black man, Richard Slade, who served 28 years for the rape of a teenage girl from a wealthy white family. She had identified him, but he didn't do it. Then a few days after his release, the woman who had been raped is murdered. Of course everyone believes Slade killed her. Who else had a better motive? As Black investigates the story he first believes Slade did it, but comes to see that he might be innocent.

This novel has an excellent plot, some wonderful characters who are either endearing (like Black) or craven cowards, poor folks or snobbish rich people. Love 'em all. Willie Black's family will make you laugh. His mother, for instance, is a pot smoker and alcoholic, but when Black starts to light a cigarette in her living room she makes him go outside to smoke. Meanwhile, she and a guy who lives with them are sitting on the couch sharing an ashtray and a toke. Scenes like this just made my day.

If you like offbeat characters, a good story, and a hero who thumbs his nose at pompous bosses, and gets away with it, you must read The Philadelphia Quarry.

Source: LibraryThing win. ( )
  bjmitch | Jun 25, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Years ago, the daughter of one of Richmond's wealthy families was found raped. The accused and convicted man was a black teenager. He was caught at the quarry, swimming with friends who had broken in and then fled. But Richard was the slowest, got grabbed up by police and was identified by the rape victim.

Now, 28 years later, evidence not possible to test back then, in the form on DNA, has proven his innocence and he is released from prison. But the celebration by his family is short. A few days later, that rape victim from so long ago, Alicia Simpson, is dead, shot in her car on the way to the gym. And that newly released man, Richard Slade, with only his mother to alibi him, is suspect number one, soon back in jail, awaiting trial.

It seems cut and dry, especially if you don't look to deep. But Willie Black is paid to look deeper..so long as he still has a job. He is a newspaper reporter for the local daily, an industry that has seen better days, with the Internet giving the news away for free. He drink too much, smokes too much, has three ex-wives and a big mouth. A big mouth and a curious interest in this case that is not making his bosses happy. Seems there are a couple of very rich, very powerful folks in Richmond that are happy to believe Slade is guilty, including people powerful enough to convinces the powers that be at the newspaper that there is no need for further investigation.

When Willie ignores orders, he is suspended.
But the next person who wants to shut him up might not be so gentle.

Oh, Willie is flawed, but he is smart and a bit funny, with a slightly buried sense of justice. And the cast of characters surrounding him are great, none better than his weed smoking mom, with her living in boyfriend who has a touch of dementia and a homeless man, Awesome, who lives part time in their quest room. Then there is Kate, the last ex-wife, for whom Willie still has a sweet hankering, not to mention the Slade family, who Willie discovers he is actually related to. Richard, the accused killer is actually his second cousin or something. Seems the father Willie never knew was a light skinned black man and Willie, unknown to him, has been 'passing' as white all his life. Live and learn!

I certainly can't accuse Owen of writing a book that is too long, since the galley weights in at just 222 pages. But it is not too short either. Enough room for some great character development, a good, solid plot and a great little twist at the end which I almost had figure out. Except for being wrong about the killer. And the rapist.

Good, solid book. Love the Richmond setting, the characters, the plot, very well written. What more can you ask? ( )
  caitemaire | Jun 19, 2013 |
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