Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Steve Thayer - The Wheat Field

72. The Wheat Field by Steve Thayer (2002)
Pliny Pennington Series Book 1
Length: 349 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery 
Started: 30 July 2013
Finished: 31 July 2013
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 10 October 2007
Why do I have it? I like historical mysteries and Steve Thayer is a new author for me.

There are hardly ever any murders in Kickapoo Falls, Wisconsin - bucolic vacation retreat in the Wisconsin Dells, and home of the politically powerful Kickapoo Gunn Club. In 1960 however, the naked bodies of a married couple - Michael and Maggie Butler - are found in a wheat field; viciously shot to death. It falls to Deputy P. A. Pennington, the trusted number-two man in the Kickapoo Falls Sheriff's Department, to find the killer.

Pliny had been in love with Maggie Butler ever since childhood, admiring her from afar for years, and watching as she eventually married another man. However, he has a hard time holding on to his fantasy of her, as he begins to discover what she was mixed up with in reality.

The oddness of the murder scene - both bodies are found within a perfect circle of crushed wheat, with absolutely no footprints or tire tracks to be found at the scene - combined with the fact that the couple's clothes are missing, and Maggie is wearing only her wedding ring but not her class ring as well; strikes Pliny as incredibly strange. The only clues that he has to work with are a Lucky Strike cigarette butt found lying near the bodies and three perfect holes in the flattened wheat.

The motive appears to Pliny to be sexual in nature; a belief which is corroborated when Trooper Russ Hoffmeyer, one of the investigators at the scene, admits to taking part in a menage a trois with Michael and Maggie Butler in the past. Their entire sexual encounter had been filmed and, according to Trooper Hoffmeyer, that film was now missing.

Pliny finds that the closer he gets to the truth, the tighter that the town's ruling elite closes ranks against him. Almost as if following some shadowy master plan, the sheriff, his one-time mentor, begins to turn against him and Pliny becomes the main murder suspect; in danger of being arrested for the double homicide. He is convinced that the answer lies hidden in the wheat field, and in a missing reel of movie film - that will ultimately shut the door on a murder investigation, but immediately open another one onto a deadly election night conspiracy.

I really enjoyed reading this book. In my opinion, the plot was thoroughly intriguing and moved along very quickly. I avidly wanted to learn the murderer's identity, and was enmeshed in the the story until I finally understood their motive. I give this book a definite A+!

A+! - (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

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