THE FAR EMPTY by J. Todd Scott


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The discovery of a body on the Tex-Mex border fuels a teenager’s suspicions about his father, the local sheriff, in this debut thriller by a longtime Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross has been living in an uneasy truce with his authoritarian father ever since his mother disappeared. His father claims the woman, whom he's forbidden his son to speak of, left him for another man. Caleb believes his mother met a violent end, and when a flexi-cuffed corpse is discovered near a crossing point for illegal immigrants, the small Texas town’s new deputy, Chris Cherry, begins to have doubts about his boss as well. The book, in which each chapter is told from a separate character’s point of view—though only Caleb’s chapters are in the first person—eschews the tight, compact, punchy prose that a writer like Jim Thompson might have used on this material. It’s aiming for epic status. But the length (more than 400 pages), the humorlessness, the inclusion of more and more plot points (drug smuggling, murdered DEA agents, the sheriff’s advances on the town’s new young teacher) don’t add up to good storytelling or suspense. Instead, the book offers an insistent showy grimness. It’s the kind of novel in which as soon as a child gets a pet, you know some baddie is going to kill it, the kind where racial epithets abound not because it’s how the characters talk but because it allows the author to show how tough-minded he is.

The journey to the end is almost as taxing as that faced by the book’s put-upon migrants.

Pub Date: June 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-17634-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016