Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"All That I Have" by Castle Freeman Jr.

It all starts off with a call on the squawk-box of a "new male", and heads downhill from there. Of course, it's not a "new male" but a "nude male" that Sheriff Lucian Wing must respond to in the opening of this small but excellent book. Wing has been married for a long time, and from what I could gather, is probably nearing retirement age. Call him late fifties. He's good at "sheriffing", a much finer art form than "the law"; one is black and white, the other shades of gray. Guess which one Wing prefers? You got it, gray.

The nude male has been bound to a tree and obviously severely beaten. Not so much that he doesn't give Wing, a state trooper, and some other officers a lot of trouble when they try to put him in the squad car. He also doesn't appear to be from around their neck of the woods, which would be Vermont. He speaks Russian. It's a mystery, all right, until Wing realizes that there's been a break-in at a very upscale mansion outside the city limits, a fine home that is owned by Russians. It's a sloppy job; someone threw a large concrete planter through the glass patio doors. Right away, Wing recognizes the work of Sean Duke, aka Superboy. He's the local hood, and even though he's not bright and certainly not law-abiding, it's obvious that Wing has some sort of soft spot for the youth. The only problem is that Superboy has stolen a lock box, a very important belonging that the Russians want back at all costs. Thus the nude male. It's a bit of a race to the finish to see who will win - Wing or the Russians.

In this mix are various small-town characters, including the sheriff's wife, a mysterious female photographer/artist, a deputy gunning for Wing's job in the next election, Superboy's trailer-trash girlfriend, and the afore-mentioned state trooper. While there is some suspense here (will Wing actually arrest Superboy? Will he be able to handle the Russians? Is the sheriff's wife up to no good?), I would have to say this book is more like a snapshot of life in a small town than it is a suspense/mystery work. The character development was quite good for such a short piece, and I felt like I knew them. I really liked Lucian, and I liked how he explained things. I wasn't particularly surprised by the ending, either; it made it feel as if the book had come full circle.

This was my first time reading Freeman, and I'm happy to say we have more of his work here at the library. Check him out at your library today!

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