Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Young, Inexperienced Sheriff Hunts the Killer of His Predecessor

The More They Disappear is a very spare and bleak novel that traces the events following the murder of a long-serving sheriff in a small town in rural Kentucky. The town and its people are clearly in decline; unemployment and drug addiction have taken a heavy toll, and political corruption has made matters even worse.

The murdered sheriff headed a small force of mostly ill-trained and apathetic deputies, and the job passes, at least temporarily, to perhaps the most capable of these, Harlan Dupee. Dupee has personal problems of his own and has never recovered from the death of the one woman who made his life complete. But he is determined to do the best he can with the limited resources he has available.

His most formidable challenge is to find the person who killed his predecessor, but this will not be an easy task. Harlan soon discovers that his former boss was a man of deep secrets and contradictions, as are many of his constituents. Another of the major characters is a young woman from a prominent local family who is lost in the grip of an addiction to OxyContin. And it doesn't help that her boyfriend is a low-level dealer.

The story of Harlan's hunt for the killer is an interesting one, but it basically takes a back seat to the larger story of the very heavy toll that drug addiction combined with the lack of economic opportunity can take on a small town. Donaldson paints the picture brilliantly, even if it is an enormously depressing one. This is not a book that's going to put a big smile on anyone's face, but it has the ring of truth and marks Jesse Donaldson as a writer to watch.

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