A Homeless Man’s Burden by Wesley Murphey

A Homeless Man’s Burden (Lost Creek Books, 306 pp., $15.95, paper) is a conservative Christian mystery novel by Wesley Murphey, a Navy submarine veteran who served from 1975-79.

A homeless man dies under an Oregon bridge, his death witnessed by Shane Coleman, a fur trapper. This death and the homeless man’s confession motivates Coleman to investigate the 1960 bean field murder of nine-year-old Ellen Brock. Coleman’s search for the truth introduces the reader to a shattered Vietnam War veteran who took part in the My Lai Massacre, and to characters who assure us that American troops didn’t win the war “because our government wouldn’t let then win the war.”

They also tell us that “the media undermined everything they tried to do over there.”  Further we are told that “You can’t win a war when the media is allowed free access to the battlefield.”

I believe that history puts the lie to that assertion. No mention is made of the resolve and dedication of our Asian enemies defending their country against forces they considered to be interlopers.

The plot also involves a veteran who dies from Agent Orange-related cancer.  “Vietnam finally got him.”  Booby traps, tunnel complexes, and bloody shoot-outs also occur. I was relieved when the unbalanced Vietnam vet character was not the evil doer in the death of the little girl.

This mystery successfully evokes the Oregon backwoods and the people who choose to live there. If you wish to read a Vietnam War-related mystery written by a non-Vietnam War veteran, I recommend starting with The Killer is Dying by James Sallis. This is Murphey’s first mystery novel.

—David Willson