J. Todd Scott has worked as a DEA agent for over twenty years and has put that experience to good use in The Far Empty, his debut novel set in far West Texas. Murfee, Texas, may be fictional but it is obvious to anyone familiar with that part of the state that it would fit right in near the actual cities found there (Scott, in fact, notes in his Acknowledgements that the town is “stitched together” from places found in the West Texas counties of Presidio and Brewster).
Murfee is one of those towns so typical to Texas, where high school football is king and high school football players who do well are remembered as town heroes for a long, long time. It’s a town in which, at the least, everyone pretty much knows everyone else by sight – and that’s not always a good thing. What makes Murfee different is that the evil people there are so darkly and cleverly evil that they are able to exploit everyone else in town easily through guile or through outright intimidation. And it’s been that way for way too long.
|J. Todd Scott|
Deputy Sheriff Chris Cherry is one of those high school heroes. Chris, in fact, was able to turn his great success on the high school football field into the chance to play college football. That opportunity, however, did not work out so well, and Chris is back in Murfee with a blown-out knee and a sheriff department job handed to him largely because of his high school glory. And, even worse, the man who hired Chris, Sheriff Stanford “Judge” Ross, is evil personified.
Caleb Ross, the sheriff’s teen-aged son is convinced that his father has murdered at least three men. Perhaps even worse, Caleb thinks the sheriff may very well have killed each of the women he’s been married to – including his third wife, Caleb’s mother. Since his mother’s disappearance, the house Caleb and the sheriff live in has become kind of a war zone, a place in which both of them tolerate the other’s presence and speak only the minimum amount required to make it through a day. For good reason, Caleb both hates and fears his father.
Things come to a head very suddenly when Chris Cherry finds the remains of a murder victim whose hands are bound behind his back with the very type of plastic handcuff favored by the Murfee sheriff department. Caleb needs an ally if he is to ever find out what happened to his mother, and he sees Chris as just the man he needs. Throw in the Feds who come snooping, and you have a whole lot of people putting pressure on Sheriff Ross, a man capable of doing anything to keep the truth about how he runs Murfee hidden – perhaps even to killing his own son if that’s what it takes.
The Far Empty is genuine West Texas Noir: dark, gloomy, and not a lot of fun for any of the characters caught up in this story. All the fun is reserved for those of us who read it.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)