SALT OF THE EARTH by Jack Olsen

SALT OF THE EARTH

One Family's Journey Through the Violent American Landscape
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another solid true-crime entry from Olsen, author of (among others) Doc (a 1990 Edgar award winner) and Charmer (1994). Elaine and Joe Gere were tough farmers' children who fell on hard times. Joe was a successful cop until he was beaten so badly he lost half his sight, then led his family on a peripatetic journey from Fontana, Calif., to Idaho and Seattle. Their oldest child, Brenda, was a stalwart but always had a fear of the bogeyman. On September 19, 1985, she met him. Her killer was the absurdly muscular Michael Kay Green, a weight lifter with a steroid-influenced penchant for rape. The police were immediately suspicious of Green but, since they couldn't find Brenda's body, were unable to charge him. Green ran off and committed a string of petty thefts and assaults before being jailed on separate rape charges. The Gere family never recovered. Joe was consumed by guilt and rage--as an ex-cop, he felt he should have been able to protect Brenda--and drifted into alcoholism. He moved the family back to Idaho and two years later committed suicide in front of Elaine and one of their sons. The police eventually found Brenda's bones and Green was convicted. While Olsen's portrait of the steely Elaine is fascinating, the book is skimpy on forensic details, and the examination of the extremely bizarre Green is far too short. Green claims to have killed at least three girls, but that tantalizing lead is unexplored. And it's disappointing that the eerie similarities between the Gere and the Green families--the ability to excuse rampant addiction, infidelity, and violence--go unremarked. A detailed study of the disintegration of a family, but lacking in some of the finer strokes that make a great crime story. (Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selections; author tour)

Pub Date: May 10th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14406-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996




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