Saturday, January 29, 2005

Rolling Rivera by Steven Torres

"Rolling Rivera" by Steven Torres, Shots Magazine, January 2005

The protagonist of this story is Sheriff Luis Gonzalo of Mr. Torres' Precinct Puerto Rico novels. As near as I can tell, this is the good Sheriff's first appearance in a short story since no short stories at all were listed on Mr. Torres' website.

In the middle of a lonely night shift in his part of rural Puerto Rico Sheriff Gonzalo receives a frantic call from a woman who has just discovered the body of her husband. The sheriff knows the woman and her husband. He grew up and attended school with her. The husband, Abraham Riviera, he knew on a professional basis, a mean drunk and abusive husband who was seldom, if ever, sober.

The sheriff finds Abraham's body in the middle of the road. He had been run over by a tractor-trailer rig. The description of the body is accurate without being overly gory. This was the second time Abe had been run over while lying drunk in the road. The first time turned him into a paraplegic, something he looked at as a gift from God. Now he could collect Social Security and never have to work again.

So how did Abe wind up out in the middle of the road with his wheelchair in the grass across the road, undamaged? The sheriff suspects family involvement, but the wheelchair shows the fingerprints of all the family members. Which one did the deed? And does the sheriff really want to know?

On a personal basis and as a mystery reader I think that the solution came too easily. However I suspect that Mr. Torres' intention was to show the community interrelationships and culture with a mystery story as background. In that he succeeded.

I also felt that the good sheriff's hewing to the law enforcement line of "the guilty must be punished" was rather forced. Not being familiar with the sheriff from the three Precinct Puerto Rico novels, I can't say whether that is a part of his character or a bit of authorial intrusion.

In short, ultimately unsatisfying as a mystery.


At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking a look at my story though it ultimately wasn't quite up to snuff. You were right in thinking that the characters are more important to me than the mystery. That's especially true, I think, in the short stories. I also try for a bit of realism as I use the short stories to flesh out the town of Angustias: not everything police officers do is about solving mysteries so the stories reflect that. Call them crime stories though even that says more than I can vouch for.

You might find my "Stoop, the Thief" story in the current issue of CrimeSpree Magazine more satisfying.

Thank you again,
Steven Torres

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