GO WITH ME by Castle Freeman, Jr.

Book Quote:

“You’re telling me I have to wait till he does something, till he gets to me, kills me, before you can do anything.”

“You could put it that way, I guess,” the sheriff said.

“How would you put it?”

“That way.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Lynn Harnett (JAN 15, 2010)

We actually get to meet the iconic Sheriff Ripley Wingate in Freeman’s acclaimed, dialogue-driven third novel. Ripley only appears briefly – at the beginning and the end – but he sets the story going and his existence is something of a reassurance to the good ol’ woodchucks that gather and blather at Whizzer’s defunct sawmill.

A scared, defiant young woman, Lillian, comes to Wingate for protection against the thuggish Blackway. She has offended Blackway and in return he has stalked her, trashed her car and killed her cat. She believes, with reason, he is going to kill her. But Wingate tells her there’s nothing he – the law – can do.

But just because the law can’t help doesn’t mean nobody can. Wingate sends her to Whizzer who assembles an unprepossessing duo – a hulking, taciturn, non-too-bright boy and a decrepit old man – to go with her and find Blackway. Nobody seems to be too sure what happens when they find him, but off they go.

The action switches between the trio’s journey and the old geezers sitting commentary at the sawmill – a backwoods Greek chorus hopeful, even confident, that an act of uncertain chivalry will improve all their lives.

Defying categorization, Freeman’s lean, razor sharp novels rely on the volition of characters for page-turning suspense. Strategy and craftiness arise out of a complexity of people who know not only each other but also their father’s mother’s sisters pretty well. But the most predictable people can still surprise you all the time.

Place also defines the characters as much as the characters define the place. The Fort, a former garage, “was not the kind of bar where you stopped for a drink on your way home from work. It was the kind of bar where you stopped for many drinks on your way to work, until soon enough they fired you and you could spend the whole day at the Fort…. The Fort was a plain, businesslike place, a factory for the manufacture and upkeep of drunks.”

But the place where our heroes are going is worse. The Lost Towns is a lawless wilderness of timberland and bare sawdust dunes where more than a few hikers, loggers and campers have disappeared over the years, and where taking a man’s truck keys is a step over a no-going-back line.

Funny, dark, complex and lean, with a nod to the back-and-forth jawing of George V. Higgins, there’s not a wasted word, all the way to the nail-biting, dread-inducing conclusion.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 42 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 17, 2009)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AUTHOR WEBSITE: An interview with Castle Freeman, Jr. on Go With Me
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of All That I Have

More sheriffing:

The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus


January 15, 2010  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Book Club Choice, Humorous, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, Small Town, Top Picks

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