A mystery suitable only for the compost heap

Oof, this recently published Midwest mystery seemed intriguing from the description, but it turned out to be a total miss for me. The narrator of When the Corn Is Waist High (2022) is both the town sheriff and the local Catholic priest, and he’s in way over his head when a serial killer appears to set up shop in his rural Indiana town.

The book is pegged on its cover as “A Thriller,” which can only have been an aspirational appellation added by someone who had not actually read the book. Often legitimate thrillers will effectively employ humor at strategic points to diffuse the building tension, but here we have Sheriff Father Lancaster making fun of everyone and everything around him, without any tension in sight to be diffused. It just comes off as mean-spirited and annoying.

He is at least an equal-opportunity asshole, I’ll give him that. Everyone from the local farmers to the police officers on loan from neighboring departments to the mayor and the FBI come in for ridicule. To read Scott’s rendition of rural Indiana is to wonder why anyone would ever want to live there. In the narrator’s eagerness to spotlight the worst aspects and congenital quirks of what he clearly views as Hicksville USA, he spends most of an entire chapter explaining at laborious length what a tenderloin sandwich is, making fun of the people who eat it, and then admitting that it’s tasty. Pick a lane, Sheriff Father Lancaster!

The only thing worse than the characterization is the plotting. None of it hangs together and there were so many unanswered questions, random red herrings that never get resolved, and unexpected revelations that don’t jibe with anything that came earlier that I wondered if the book was a strange choose-your-own-adventure gone awry.

I’m already as bored writing this review as I was reading the book, so I’ll wrap this up. There are couple of twists that I’m sure someone in the marketing department thought justified that “Thriller” label, but they came too late to redeem the book for me. I sincerely hope you never read this one, but if you have, there is just one of those unanswered questions that I’d love to have answered about the murderer and his crimes:

WHERE DID HE GET THE HORSE?!?!?!?

(Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Published by Julia

I learned to read before I started kindergarten, and I haven't stopped yet.

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