Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on The Fields, the brand new novel from Erin Young. I was very fortunate to be sent a copy of the book by publisher Hodder & Stoughton, and could tell from the blurb alone it was right up my street., Here’s what it’s about:
About the Book
IT STARTS WITH A BODY-a young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the few family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.
For Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations at the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, an already horrific crime takes on a personal edge when she discovers the victim is an old friend, from a dark past she thought she’d left behind.
Rumour travels fast in small towns, while sweltering heat and state-wide elections only add to the pressure-cooker atmosphere. When another body is found, Riley is in danger of being engulfed by the fear and the frenzy. Something deeply disturbing is out there – and it reaches far beyond Black Hawk County.
Beautifully written and masterfully crafted, The Fields is a stunning crime debut.
There is a real melancholic tone about this book, which threaded amongst a real sense of tension and threat, hits you from the very opening chapter. This is classic American Noir style of thriller, a real John Hart feel to it, with perhaps a shallower descent towards the darkness, but one which hits the spot nonetheless. Part murder mystery, part socio-environmental commentary, the book drew me in from the very first page and kept me intrigued and engaged to the very last.
This was not a fast read for me, although it has to be said that some of the many scenes are packed with tension and they get the pulse pounding as fast as any high-action thriller. But fast action wouldn’t suit the tone, or the setting, of this novel, a book which leads us to the agricultural heart of Iowa and a community which is fighting for its basic existence amongst the ever growing influence of big business, an agricultural and pharmaceutical giant who is promising the earth, as far as the government is concerned, but simply taking it all over in the eyes of the small community farms who once dominated the agricultural market. So when a woman’s body is discovered on the lands of one of the few remaining independent farms in the region, it falls to Riley Fisher and her team to find out who killed the woman and why.
Riley Fisher is a great character and one I enjoyed spending time with. She has a past, one which is slowly and carefully revealed to the readers, but one which overwhelmingly informs the person that she is and the cautious and almost isolated personality that she portrays to the world. She is also a woman in a very masculine world, her appointment meeting the usual resistance and animosity amongst some of her testosterone packed colleagues. It adds a layer of conflict and complication to the investigation, although not all of her team are against her, Logan Wood being a notable exception. He was another great and ultimately very likeable character. Not quite chalk to Riley’s cheese, but there were great enough differences between the two to create some lighter moments between them, but a tight enough bond to make them a very memorable pairing.
There is a very dark side to this thriller, one which becomes very apparent when we, as readers, are treated to some scenes from the point of view of an altogether disturbing character. We know little about them, aside from their somewhat unusual habits, and how they fit into the story takes some time to truly uncover. It gives the book a real edge, a tension which you can hear and feel humming along in the background, kind like power cable in a storm. It gives us a real edge over the investigators, but still not necessarily giving us the whole picture.
With missing people, murder, deceit, some very duplicitous and shady characters this book had everything I look for in a cracking thriller. A beautiful and effective narrative style, coupled with perfect scene setting, that transports you to the heart of an Iowa cornfield just as easily as it does the Sheriff’s office or the dark and disturbing basements that may haunt your dreams for a while. It’s the kind of book which has a very visual feel to it, one that would easily translate to a TV adaptation, and one which has characters who I warmed to really quickly and who are so vivid that I feel like I’ve known them much longer than one book. I hope there is much more to come from Riley Fisher in the future. Recommended.
About the Author
Erin Young’s debut thriller, THE FIELDS, was inspired by an article about the menacing power of Big Agriculture. A decision to set the novel in the corn-capital of the world led her to make a fascinating journey across Iowa, from the state capitol to the state fair, from chance encounters with cops and farmers to an audience with a local mayor, shooting Glocks at a range and getting caught in supercell storms. Having grown up in a fishing village in Devon, she is drawn to the claustrophobic dramas of rural small-towns and the secrets they hide.
Erin Young is the pseudonym of acclaimed historical novelist, Robyn Young, author of eight internationally bestselling novels. She has been published in 19 languages in 22 countries, selling two million books worldwide. THE FIELDS is her first contemporary thriller. She lives and writes in Brighton, England.