The body of a young wife is found in an Iowa cornfield. Her wounds make it a clear case of homicide, but why? Complicating the investigation is that the lead detective, Sergeant Riley Fisher, was a childhood friend of the victim, though they became estranged as adults for reasons that are only hinted at through the first two-thirds of The Fields (2022) by Erin Young.
As Sergeant Fisher and her team search for clues, they discover disturbing evidence that seems to indicate an outside-the-box motive: The cornfield where the victim was found is owned by an upstart farm cooperative who have developed an organic corn hybrid that could threaten the corporate agriculture interests that dominate the state’s economy and politics. Is it just a coincidence that the victim’s husband is a research scientist for one of those Big Ag companies?
This is a decent thriller/police procedural, a fair bit more gory than most of the genre that I’ve read lately. The author created some compelling characters, and Riley was an appealing protagonist. As an Iowan, I loved the idea of a storyline that sets up Big Ag as the possible villain, but unfortunately the potential was more potent than the reality. The plot got a bit convoluted and increasingly melodramatic in the final section, and that diluted its impact for me.
All indications are that this is the opening book of what will become a series centered around Riley Fisher, and I think it sets the stage well for a continuation. I think there are a lot of possibilities in the character and the setting, and I look forward to seeing what Erin Young brings us next. Perhaps the next scenario could make use of the fact that hogs outnumber people 7:1 in this state, with all the good and bad that entails.
A final, minor observation: I’m pretty familiar with the area that is depicted in the book (Black Hawk County) and I thought it was portrayed realistically by the author. But there were several instances where some of her dialogue and exposition about farming rang a false note. For example, one of the Iowa farmers refers to the crops he grows as “vegetables, soy and dent corn.” Iowans might calls them soybeans, or most often just beans, but I don’t think many would refer to the staple crop as “soy”. (I also mostly hear people refer to “field corn,” but dent corn is not uncommon.) This particular mystery was solved for me when I saw the author is from England. The on-site research she mentions in her Acknowledgments section clearly paid off in most ways, but it’s those pesky details that are hard to pin down. Still, no one who isn’t intimately familiar with American agriculture would (or should) be fazed by these very minor slips.
2 thoughts on “Murder in the corn”
Great comments. It’s cool to find a series set in Iowa. Maybe there will be more hogs in future books. Also, I wonder why a Brit chose Iowa?
Thanks, Beth. I don’t remember that she explained that in the Acknowledgments but it’s been a while since I read it so maybe I’ve forgotten. 🙂