In rural Vermont, Sheriff Wing has to deal with a break-in at a luxury home owned by Russians, a local small-time criminal who is in big trouble, and a deputy that wants to usurp his position because he feels that time has passed his boss by.
It sounds like a pretty ordinary mystery novel but it’s not, because it turns out that the mystery is not much of one, and the book is not really even about that. It’s about the sheriff, through whose eyes we see the world, and whom we get to know intimately. He is laid-back and easygoing, with an old school approach to “sheriffing”, as he calls it, which means that he doesn’t feel all that strongly obligated to the letter of the law but rather to the community he is responsible for. He doesn’t get excited or loses his head over every little thing and he is not someone who solves problems with his gun or the full force of the law, which his detractors see as a sign that his methods are not up to par anymore in a world that has gotten exceedingly violent and dangerous in their eyes.
The story is rather short and spare, and it seems that the author wants to make his readers figure out underlying subtleties and vague insights by themselves. The characters feel a little like stereotypes, for instance, the Russian bad guys, the ambitious boy scout deputy, or the local bad boy and his not so discerning companion, but generally, the book has a unique and surprising charm aided by a wry kind of humour and a calm atmosphere. Conversations are often meandering and nebulous, with more unsaid than spelled out, and the sheriff’s train of thoughts often takes detours and gets distracted by memories, with events and people floating in and out of his, and through this the reader’s, vision and often having only a transitory impact because in the end, it doesn’t seem as if much of anything has changed.
To sum it up, the plot is more or less an afterthought, and Freeman is mainly interested in his protagonist and the overall mood of his story. It’s not a great book but a very good one, and, most importantly, it’s an entertaining read that is perfect for a lazy afternoon.
CBR11 Bingo: Summer Read