Sunday, January 16, 2011

BIG WHEAT - a Carl Brookins Review

Big Wheat
By Richard A. Thompson
Poisoned Pen Press 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-820-8

World War I is done and Charlie Krueger’s older brother is never coming
home. Charlie, his sister and their mother must cope with an increasingly
abusive drunken father and husband. The summer of 1919 wanes and vast
acreages of the Middle West prairies are thick with ripening grain. Up the
long reaches from the banks of the Platte and the Missouri come the contract
threshing crews and their machines, most followed by raffish bindlestiffs to
supplement a farmer’s friends and relatives. The crews are often peopled by
men of questionable backgrounds and are occasionally eyed with suspicion by
local sheriffs who rarely chase criminals beyond their county boundaries.

When Charlie Krueger has a final confrontation with his father, he leaves
behind a sorrowful mother and sister and the local girl he thought he’d love
forever. He becomes a bindlestiff, traveling from farm to farm, learning
the threshing business and nurturing his love for machines.

The machines are new, complicated and prone to breakdowns. Charlie hooks up
with a marvelously conceived traveling machine repair crew that becomes his
new family. But lurking in the background is a killer, a killer who
believes Charlie saw his latest brutal deed. He seeks to find and murder
Charlie. Meanwhile, the sheriff of Charlie’s home county has developed
leads which point him toward Charlie as a murderer.

This then is the roiling plot which moves the story forward. Carefully
constructed and set against the vast reaches of the plains states, the novel
evokes a time and place and the attitudes of the people and the land in a
powerful and moving way. Readers will smell the dust, drip sweat and
shrivel under the burning sun right along with the threshing crews. They’ll
feel a clutch in the night as the sheriff and the murderer draw closer and
they’ll empathize with the casual corruption and the surmounting goodness of
the characters the author has created.

A fine, exciting and unusual well-written novel I am pleased to recommend to
all readers of crime fiction.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

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