Review: THE FIELDS by Erin Young, published by Hodder & Stoughton April 28th 2022

Review: THE FIELDS by Erin Young, published by Hodder & Stoughton April 28th 2022

ISBN: 978 1529 39755 0

My last review was about a couple of modern day thrillers written by a master of historical Roman warfare. Yet he managed to make the transition seamlessly, and now two superb modern titles by him confirm his ranking as a thriller and adventure writer … this time I have a book written by a woman who is probably one of the most successful writers of historical adventure (under the pseudonym Robyn Young; her brethren series about the Knights Templar are superb – you should read them) who has now attempted to write modern day crime. Did she succeed?

First, I have to apologise to Hodder & Stoughton. They sent me this book an embarrassingly long time ago, and I have tried to read it faster so that I could get my name on the cover (Ha! That worked, didn’t it?) but a steady flow of new books appearing, my own latest novel (it’ll be out soon, and you wouldn’t want to miss that), and then a surprisingly unpleasant medical diagnosis, followed by a pile of 31 (currently) books to review. It doesn’t include the other books I’ve already reviewed this year – that’s just the outstanding number. So trying to keep up with review copies has not been easy. Especially since there are other books I need to read for my own research purposes.

But that’s enough of the excuses. 

The blurb reads: “A young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the new family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.

“For Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations at the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, an already horrific crime takes on a personal edge when she discovers that the victim is an old friend, from a dark past she thought she had left behind.

“Rumour travels fast in small towns, while sweltering heat and state-wide elections only add to the pressure-cooker atmosphere. When another body is found, Riley is in danger of being engulfed by the fear and the frenzy. Something deeply disturbing is out there – and it reaches far beyond Black Hawk County.”

Well, yes, it’s blurb, and you’d expect it to put the best gloss on a book, wouldn’t you? It’s the promotional material the editor thinks is most likely to appeal to readers. 

Still, it gives the beginning to the story. A woman is found, and she’s been horrifically treated. Naturally the police go to check on her husband, and then start spreading their net a little wider – but when a new victim is found in an old works, the investigation starts to take a new direction. And it isn’t the end of the bodies.

Okay, I’ll stop keeping you in suspense. The fact is, when I first picked up a Michael Connelly book (it was ANGEL’S FLIGHT), I knew I was in the hands of a real master of crime writing. The prose was so precise and yet involving that I felt I was watching the action play out on a screen. I could see the characters, I could smell the warm soil, I could hear the cries and screams. I wasn’t just reading, I was there, in the middle of it all. 

Erin Young has achieved the same with THE FIELDS. This book grips from the very first page. How do you make the flatlands of Iowa fascinating? She does! Her characters are believable, wonderfully presented, and utterly compelling – whether good or bad. The plot is seamless (so often the failing of writers thinking they can make a fast buck out of writing a quick crime thriller – after all, it’s easy, isn’t it? Anyone can write crime – yeah. Right), and has some superb twists. I was left guessing until about the last fifteen pages – as a crime writer I usually guess correctly about the perpetrators in the first twenty pages – so this was a great relief.

And then we come to the book’s atmosphere. 

Rarely since ANGEL’S FLIGHT have I come across a more beautifully depicted environment of fear, suspicion and growing horror. Erin Young has created a world in which the rules of science and logic exist but side-by-side with age-old terrors and superstitions. And the joy at the end was seeing how she had woven her bestial and atavistic themes so perfectly into her story.

This is a book you cannot dip into and out of. You have to allocate time, because you will want to keep on reading without stopping. It is a real thriller, a story that any crime reader would absorb in one sitting, and most crime writers will be intensely jealous of. “Why didn’t I think of that?” they will mutter while downing another large vodka. 

Because you weren’t bright enough, is the short answer.

If you don’t read another crime book this year, make sure you get a copy of THE FIELDS. You won’t be disappointed.

Highly Recommended. Easily the best crime book of my year so far.

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