One of my favorite series of all times, these books by Susan Hill featuring the enigmatic Simon Serrailler, the non-doctor, third-of-a-set-of-triplets, contemplative sort of police detective who outdoes Adam Dagleish every time. "The Various Haunts of Men" is the first in the series, and while not exactly required to read or listen to them in order, it helps.
This book has everything -- story, fascinating and complex chatacters, family issues, a baffling crime (ie series of crimes), plenty of tension and maybe most importantly, a whole string of people you come to care about, many of whom continue into subsequent books.
Susan Hill is remarkable. No one creates characters like she does, and no one spins original stories with more veracity. These are people you know, with all their strengths and faults, their hidden sins and unexpected virtues.
Steven Pacey's narration is perfect -- just the right pace and tone.
The only real problem with these books is pacing yourself -- there aren't that many, and you can only read them for the first time once.
'Chiefs' completely blew me away -- who knew? I've read several of Stuart Woods other books, the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series in particular, and they were fine, nothing to really write home about. So I wasn't too excited when I saw this one on Audible. But? It was on sale, and it was long -- a prime requirement for me -- so what the heck? Why not?
Boy, was I wrong. "Chiefs" grabs you from the very first minutes and doesn't let go -- I literally cancelled two appointments this afternoon -- no way was I going to stop listening until I finished it. This was Katherine Stockett's "The Help" meets Robert Penn Warren's classic "All the King's Men", although arguably better than either. As a novel of southern culture, spanning three generations, as viewed through three very different men who served as chief of police in a small southern town, it's hard to imagine anything better than this one.
Few books draw you so completely into the character's lives as does "Chiefs". This is consummate storytelling. As each of the three segments finished, I was sad to see it end, figuring the next segment surely wouldn't be as good as the one I'd just finished. But I was never disappointed. Each was compelling in its own way.
It's really too bad it's being advertised as a "serial killer" book. Yes, that's an element, but that's sort of like saying that chocolate cake is about the sugar. Yes, that's an element, but that misses the point. This is a novel, not really detective fiction, as such. It's a story of courage and cowardice, of home and running away, of race, black and white, good men and evil scattered throughout. True, it's the 'killer' angle that ties the three administrations together, but that's really not the focus of the story.
I couldn't help comparing the whole situation to that of John Grisham. This was Stuart Woods first book -- written long before he published any of the more traditional detective fiction books he's more famous for. Yet "Chiefs" is so far above and beyond anything that Woods has written since, it's sometimes hard to believe it's the same author.
Same with Grisham. The first book he wrote -- "A Time To Kill" -- wasn't published until he'd already written and sold several other more traditional legal thrillers. Similarly, "A Time to Kill" is by far Grisham's finest work, although I'd admit "A Painted House" comes close in terms of literary merit. And also similarly, 'A Time to Kill" isn't really about rape and punishment, it's about the life and times of the people involved, the society in which these things happened. So it is with "Chiefs".
I know I will listen to this book again and again. If you haven't read or listened to it yet, you've got a real treat ahead of you. Don't miss this one. It's a classic.
Starting back in the mid 1980's, I was one of the few lawyers who was trying to defend rural landowners like the Roberson's, the endangered protagonists of "Breaking Point". When I say "trying", that's what I mean: As author Box suggests, these federal agents operate outside the Congressionally-enacted law, with unpublished rules and regulations, to the point that it's almost impossible to clear your clients in these cases. Besides, if you try to fight back, they just throw in more charges -- again, as Box suggests. The best you can do is to try to work out some plan that will let your client keep some portion of his land -- although by the time they get done defending themselves, most abandon the farm. Everything they valued has been destroyed. It got so bad that by the mid-1990's, I had to quit. I decided that if I had another sobbing farm wife sitting in my office, listening while I had to explain that there really wasn't much that could be done other than to work out a "deal", I'd go crazy myself. Like my clients, I too walked away. It just hurt too much.
A few things in "Breaking Point" are fiction: I never had a client kill, or even try to kill, a federal agent -- but I did have two who killed themselves. The trauma of having your farm -- in your family for over 100 years -- plowed, planted and harvested every year -- suddenly declared a "wetland" and therefore off limits, subject to horrendous penalties if "disturbed", is just too devastating. Can planted acres be a "wetland"? Indeed. Under federal law, a "wetland" is determined by soil type -- it has nothing to do with its being "wet". No self-respecting duck would ever look at this land, let alone land there. All that's required to constitute a "wetland" is a particular soil type -- merely that the land WOULD SUPPORT hydrophytic vegetation IF IT WERE wet, is enough. Kafkaesque, certainly, but entirely true.
There's more in this book than just the trauma faced by the Roberson family -- the range fire at the end, the tense escape, is one of the best white-knuckle scenes in history. Box is so good that you can picture the whole thing, feel the heat.
As far as I know, C. J. Box is only one of two popular authors who dares to make federal agents the 'bad guys' in some of his books -- P. T. Deutermann being the other. And why not? It's not just pharmaceutical company owners, businessmen, religious leaders and Republicans who do bad things, as virtually every other contemporary author would have you believe. Sometimes there are rogue federal agents, too.