“T’was the week before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse….”
That’s not entirely true for us this week, as our youngest cat (Edison) has very kindly left two rather angry and bewildered mice on our back step over a forty eight hour period. The same can also be said of the next verse of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous yuletide poem.
“The children were settled all snug in there beds…” well not in this months second book review which is Children Of The Valley by Castle Freeman and published by Farrago Books (www.farragobooks.com) December 10th.
Lucian Wing is Sheriff in Cardiff a sleepy little town in the backwoods of Vermont. They have crime but its usually harmless mischief. That is until a big New York lawyer, Carl Armentrout, arrives into his office asking for help tracking down his client’s step-daughter. His client is Rex Lord, a big wig in the city. Lucian has never heard of him. He agrees to keep an eye out for the step-daughter, Pamela DeMorgan, who has gone AWOL from a fancy school up in Boston. Then Lucian gets a call from a local character, by the name of Ms Truax, a retired teacher, who says she had trespassers camping in her woods. Going up into the woods, he finds a tent and a makeshift camp, with girls clothing in it. He assumes its his missing girl. Then, a couple of days later, the camp is found shot up and he when he finally crosses paths with Pamela, she’s actually with a local boy, whose a classmate at the same school. She says she’s not running a way from school, but her step-fathers attentions. Soon it transpires that the stepfather isn’t the problem, it’s Armentrout and his goons. Thus, follows a game of cat and mouse, with Lucian moving the kids from one makeshift safe house to another. Can Sheriff Wing restore law and order, while also trying to deal with day-to-day life in the town, including an oversized wild boar that’s running amok around the county, and his high spirited wife and the kid’s weird and colourful parents?
Unlike quite a few books I read, Castle Freeman’s it appears, isn’t one for wasting paper. His books, well this one at 170 pages in length, and I guess his previous ones in this series, are short and to the point. Almost Novella-esque, but in doing so he delivers a serious but highly entertaining and witty story of the life and loves a of a sheriff in modern day America.
If this book is like anything, it is a James Herriot novel. That’s if he wasn’t a vet in Yorkshire but a local lawman in Vermont. With his very hokey, but wonderfully colourful cast of support characters who inhabit Cardiff, VT, Lucian Wing isn’t a know-it-all type of character. He’s a real take him as you find him type of guy. A quick witted and smooth operator, who could charm the birds out of the trees, if needed.
I loved this book from the start and felt very much at home in Cardiff, Vermont. Thanks to Freemans no nonsense but well-structured style of storytelling. Even though this isn’t Freeman’s first outing with Sherriff Lucian Wing, the well-placed back stories, mean you don’t have to have read the previous books to know what going on. At times it’s like being driven through the county by the central character and every now and then he’d point to a place and say That’s Old man Holler’s place, he did that and or this happened back then, etc, etc
This is American author Castle Freeman’s ( http://www.castlefreemanjr.com) fifth book, his other in the Lucian Wing series are All That I have (2009), Old Number Five (2020) and two others not in the series are Go With Me (2008) and The Devil In The Valley (2015). He was born in Texas and is an award-winning writer of personal essays, reporting, op-ed material, history and natural history, while also being a regular contributor to several periodicals, including “Old Moore’s Almanac”. He lives with his wife in South-western Vermont.
After reading this book I could move to Vermont and live happily in Cardiff! When the pandemic subsides, of course! So, as we enter the week of madness that normally comes with the run up to the 25th December, this maybe an ideal escape with a mice glass of wine or Egg Nog. Then I suggest you keep it local as per Covid 19 restrictions and click and collect from your local book shop, or download a copy.
Oh, and have a Happy Christmas from both of us here at The Library Door.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.