Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Never Forget, Never Forgive

Washington State native Clayton Fox (1920-2008) wrote for the pulp Westerns and then transitioned into paperback original novels. He eventually became a writer for the TV show Rawhide. Two of his non-western novels were published as Ace Doubles, including Never Forget, Never Forgive from 1961.

Our hero is small-town police detective Thaddus Zilch. He lost his previous job for coming down too hard on racketeers, so he’s giving it another shot with a different Sheriff in a different town nestled in Washington State logging country. He’s a good narrator and a pretty excellent cop.

Within 30 minutes of his new job starting, a skeleton is found in the woods, and Zilch is assigned the case. There is a bullet hole in the skull from a .22 caliber rifle. The location of the hole means murder or hunting accident, so Zilch has a cold case to solve.

Meanwhile, Zilch meets Connie, the pretty owner of the local diner. He learns that a decade ago, three men raped Connie and left her pregnant with her now 10 year-old son. She was never able to identify the rapists, and the whole town knows her tragic story. Zilch quickly (a little too quickly, to be honest) falls in love with Connie, who is still dealing with the psychological scars left behind from her attack.

Little by little, evidence seems to mount that the skeleton in the woods may have been one of Connie’s rapists. It’s a pretty interesting mystery for Zilch to solve involving forensic science and a decade-old vendetta. As the romance between Connie and Zilch intensifies, he is forced to face the possibility that Connie has gone full-on Death Wish upon her rapists. This is the central mystery of the novel.

I really liked this book - mostly because the writing and the characters were uniformly terrific. My only criticism was that the murder mystery itself was so, so easy to solve. The author telegraphed the twist ending early in the novel making it the most tepid surprise I can recall. Despite this, I genuinely enjoyed the paperback and will seek out other works by Clayton Fox. Recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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