The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
To put this book into cowboy terms - it was more hat than cattle.
Caleb Ross is a high school student in a Texas town near the border which his father, the sheriff, rules by playing the classic western lawmen. However, Caleb knows that his father has a secret sinister side, and that he may have killed Caleb’s mother who he claims abandoned them both. New deputy Chris Cherry is a former football hero who has just returned home after an injury ended his playing days, and both he and his girlfriend are struggling to adjust to the situation. When Cherry investigates a body found in a shallow grave Caleb is positive that it’s his mother.
This starts a series of events that involve others in the town like the drug addicted and crooked chief deputy, a beautiful classmate of Caleb’s, a substitute teacher with a huge skeleton in her closet, and a deadly cartel hitman who has far more bodies to his credit than candles on his birthday cake.
This started off very strong rural crime novel with some good writing done that establishes all of the characters while giving us their viewpoints. The setting is also very well done so that you get the vibe of this desert town that’s a stone’s throw from the drug violence in Mexico. I was really into it for the first third of the book and thought it was going to be a next level book.
Unfortunately, it seemed to get stuck in a rut at the midway point and just keep going over the same old ground again and again. This was the debut novel from author J. Todd Scott, and it almost seems like he didn’t quite trust himself enough to think that he’d gotten the point across with the characters so that he felt the need to keep telling us about them when he’d already established everything we needed to know. It’s over 400 pages but could have easily been tightened up to around 300 without losing any of the richness of the better parts.
It’s one of those that’s not a bad book and had a lot of things I very much enjoyed, but the early expectations might have hurt it for me when it didn’t quite reach the heights I was hoping for. I also see that the sequel to it is even longer which makes me worry that it might suffer from similar problems. Still, Scott is a talented writer, and I’d be willing to check out more of his work someday.
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