A breakneck procedural that is beautifully written and masterfully crafted, Erin Young’s The Fields is a dynamite debut—crime fiction at its very finest.
Some things don’t stay buried.
It starts with a body—a young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the few family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.
When Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations for the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, arrives on the scene, an already horrific crime becomes personal when she discovers the victim was a childhood friend, connected to a dark past she thought she’d left behind.
The investigation grows complicated as more victims are found. Drawn deeper in, Riley soon discovers implications far beyond her Midwest town.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
The Fields by Erin Young is a complex procedural featuring Sergeant Riley Fisher, a detective with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s office. As body after body is discovered, she has to determine if there is a serial killer in their small community or if something even more insidious is happening.
What I Enjoyed:
I enjoyed the setting, which is Iowa’s farming communities. I haven’t read a mystery of any sub-genre that has featured this type of community before this one. The facts about farming and the science that goes into it were fascinating. They made me feel so much more intelligent in regards to that industry.
I also enjoyed the complexity of the plot. Frequently, procedurals hit slow points, but The Field is fast-paced from start to finish, with multiple murders, loads of subterfuge, complex farming practices, corrupt politicians, and more. My head was absolutely spinning with all of the parts and pieces that came into play as the investigation progressed. It effectively mixes a political thriller, a bit of technothriller, and a procedural.
All of the characters felt like they belonged right where they are at. None are one-dimensional characters, but instead, they had a more genuine feel as people you would find if you were to visit the area. I loved the realistic feel of the characters and their individual stories. It definitely helped to suspend any disbelief as the story grew more complex and technical.
What I Wish:
I loved the story’s complexity, but it did feel overwhelming at times trying to process so many different elements. So, what I wish is that there had been perhaps some simplifying of the story – not a lot, just a bit – enough to keep my head from spinning but not so much that it slowed at points.
The main character, Riley Fisher, is developed very well, with her backstory coming into play during the investigation. She is a strong, independent woman who has overcome tragedy and trauma with an easily respected determination. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but that makes her more interesting as you can never predict what she will do next.
Reminds Me Of:
Because of the setting, this story felt very fresh. As a detective, Riley Fisher reminded me a bit like V.I. Warshawski (Sara Paretsky) if she was set in Iowa rather than Chicago. She had a very similar background of family in law enforcement and dealings with politicians.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you are looking for a complex and fast-paced crime thriller, The Fields by Erin Young is just the debut novel to fit that bill.