The Unknowing

Down & Out Books
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Runaway. Victim of domestic battery. An older, married boyfriend. Pregnant. And ultimately, dead and forgotten in a cornfield.

For Sheriff’s Deputy Wes Spahn, this isn’t just another case. For Spahn, this case will have too many emotional similarities to his first case as a detective, similarities that will leave him questioning everything.

When a farmer finds a pile of bones, Spahn begins an odyssey that will lead him inexorably both forward through false leads and empty clues, from incorrect identifications to bad suspects and backward into a case that is a decade old. It also leads to tension between Spahn and his fellow officers as he pushes them out of his way in his zeal to solve the case.

Spahn’s victim is Suzanne Margaret Haas, a runaway since early summer. As he puts her life together, Spahn comes to focus on her boyfriend. He is a man nearly ten years older, dishonorably discharged from the military, married but with girlfriends scattered throughout the area. Spahn is convinced of the man’s guilt.

But there is another man…who has a taste for violence and young girls. Is he Suzanne’s killer?

During all this, ratcheting up his emotional barrenness, is his on-going failure in solving his very first case, that of a missing girl. He tries to work both cases simultaneously and soon understands someone is gunning for him. He finds tire tracks and footprints in the snow around his house and sees multiple vehicles following him.

When he realizes the different vehicles belong to different people, who are following him for different reasons, Spahn begins to believe his world is falling in on him, and he wonders if he’s been on the wrong road the entire time, both in how he handled the two cases and how he handled everyone around him.

The endgame comes quickly and at the story’s end, Spahn walks away from the job and the friends he’s lost, his original case still unsolved.


“Trey R. Barker writes with soul, sulfur, and an insight into the mind of midwestern Sheriff’s deputy Wes Spahn that only midwestern Sheriff’s deputy Trey Barker could bring. Part elegy, part police procedural, with a sprinkle of gallows cop shop banter and a splash of country noir, The Unknowing is a heartfelt new entry in the dark and dangerous public blotter of Barkerville.” —Sean Doolittle, Thriller Award-winning author of Lake Country

“Trey R. Barker is one of the most lyrical writers of crime fiction around, and his noir police procedural The Unknowing is no exception. It’s the story of a detective trying to solve the disappearance and murder of a girl in rural Illinois, but what kept me turning the pages was Barker’s driven, guilt-ridden, utterly believable protagonist Wes Spahn, who, despite a similar case earlier in his career, lands in a no-win situation. Barker’s solid character development, combined with his polished prose, races to a surprising finale which makes us ponder whether Wes ran the case or the case ran him.” —Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of the Georgia Davis PI Series

Praise for the Books by Trey R. Barker:

“A writer who walks the walk, Barker will show you the difficult and dark side of crime literature. Get the nerve to read him—you should.” —Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author and creator of the Longmire hit series on Netflix

“Barker, a former journalist who works in law enforcement, has produced a noirish police procedural that’s gritty, violent, and utterly believable.” —Kirkus Reviews, for Slow Bleed

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Additional Information

Down & Out Books
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Published on
Nov 11, 2019
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Best For
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Fiction / Crime
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Eligible for Family Library

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With Jace Salome’s partner out of the picture, she’s forced to delve into the world of online predators alone…

Two bodies, recently beaten to death, are discovered on the edges of Zachary County. There is a recent attempt to break into the security office at a resort in nearby Rooster County. And the Zachary County Jail has exploded with seemingly random fights.

A year into the job now, Deputy Sheriff Jace Salome is edging into being more comfortable with her role in the department. When she finds a smartphone in the jail she learns the random fights are anything but, that they have been filmed and then emailed from the phone to an intricate web of private email servers and access-only websites. And the fights seem to be directed from someone outside the jail.

The two dead bodies, as well as the investigation of the resort break-in, and Jace’s look into the fights, all collide when she discovers that a dead girl had been in the Zachary County jail and that video exists of her getting beaten both in the jail and in the security office of the hotel.

Jace realizes the darkest recesses of her imagination cannot keep up with reality. This is a world of technology and on-line predators, and the stakes are much higher than her pay-grade. Worse still…Jace Salome has to face this case alone

Praise for Trey R. Barker and the Jace Salome novels:

“A writer who walks the walk, Barker will show you the difficult and dark side of crime literature. Get the nerve to read him—you should.” —Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of the Longmire mystery series

“Barker, a former journalist who works in law enforcement, has produced a noirish police procedural that’s gritty, violent, and utterly believable.” —Kirkus Reviews on Slow Bleed

“With a ripped from the headlines plot and a twist that adds a real kick, this gritty mystery brings to mind the crime fiction of Kathryn Casey and Alanna Martin.” —Library Journal on East of the Sun

“Introduced in Slow Bleed, Jace [Salome] is a fascinating protagonist, flawed and broken but determined to rebuild her life.” —Library Journal

 With a murder indictment hanging over his head, an angry cop on his tail, and an unknown woman who just dove through his car window during a shootout at the Carson City sewage plant, Halford Turnbull has just one goal …

To prove his innocence. Not to the prosecutors, not to the cops. To his brother. But brother Hanford is halfway across the country and between Carson City, Nevada and Huntsville, Texas is a pile of trouble that Hal simply can’t seem to avoid.

From stealing $20,000 to buy a DVD of a murder, to a low-rent casino in Vegas where a sadistic security guard is killed and a church filled with self-flagellant priests in Valentine, Texas, where a second shoot-out leaves a riot of bodies, Hal simply can’t catch a break.

And during it all, Hal wavers. He wants to prove to his brother-the good brother-that he isn’t a killer. But as situations begin to pile up, Hal thinks less of his brother than his girlfriend and a safe, new life in Mexico.

In a drive-in movie parking lot, he and his girlfriend and brother finally are forced to face both Hal’s haunting demons and the man who created the DVD of murder, and who wants his property back.

It is a 2000 mile journey that could lead to redemption and could just get him killed, and yet there is no way Hal Turnbull can avoid driving those miles.

Praise for 2000 MILES TO OPEN ROAD …

“Double-crosses, triple-crosses, a storm of bullets, and one bloody grab at redemption … and Hal Turnbull still has 2000 miles to go. This is a mean, greasy V-8 of a book, and Trey Barker’s at the wheel. Buckle up.” — Sean Doolittle, author of Burn, Dirt, and Rain Dogs

“A new voice in the crime fiction world, Trey R. Barker has made himself heard with this book. It’s kind of like Quentin Tarrantino on Methamphetamines. It’s not really a caper, but has some of those elements. It’s really just about a guy trying to get through an ordeal, and hopefully redeem himself a bit in the process. Barker writes with fury and the action in this book propels it at light speed. And yet the anchor here is the characters, human and flawed, but true. Barker has come to kick some ass and chew some bubblegum, and he’s all out of bubblegum.” — Crimespree Magazine, August 2005

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