“The Far Empty” by J. Todd Scott. (Chris Cherry #01)

My review of “The Far Empty” by J. Todd Scott.

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(Brought to you by the letter M.)

Mean. Moody. Murderous. Memorable. Magnificent. Menacing. Majestic. Masterful. Magical. Merciless. Marvellous. Mayhem. Major. Mesmerising. Mighty. Maddish. Mysterious. Magnetic….more, more, MORE!

Seriously though, my discovery of this novel, and of its writer, J. Todd Scott, came about purely by serendipity.

I had been enjoying Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire books and was in the habit of writing a short review and of Tweeting about these and of my enjoyment of that series. It was one of these tweets that someone responded to with the suggestion that I add “The Far Empty” to my list of books to read – I must get around to looking back and seeing who it was so that I can thank them.

So, after storming through the entire Longmire canon in just a few months, I eagerly turned to “The Far Empty”.

Now, I would be lying if I told you that I loved it right from the get-go because I didn’t. In fact, after the first few chapters – I forget how many, maybe four or five – I almost gave up on the book. I cannot now recollect why I wasn’t enjoying the early parts of the book. It may have been that the chapters switched between several characters and, perhaps, I struggled to “connect” with any of them. Or, possibly, it was simply that the tale had a darker and more disturbing tone than the Longmire novels that I had just spent the past few months reading. Now, I like darker tales, stories with a bit of grit and realism, but, maybe my mind wasn’t yet ready to adapt back to that type of book.

Then, just as I was considering giving up, it suddenly clicked. I even Tweeted about it.

“The Far Empty” is my latest read. I struggled to get to grips with the first few chapters but it now has me hooked. It has some exquisite passages and beautiful phrasing. Enjoying it immensely now.

And in a follow-up Tweet, I mentioned the point in the tale where I became hooked. Something on the description of this scene resonated with me.

I think it was the passage where the Sheriff describes Murfee’s two murders where I thought, “Yep. I’m into this now.” That bit grabbed me and I “felt” the novel then.

It was shortly after when I Tweeted this.

“The Far Empty” has me gripped. An absorbing narrative, engaging plot, beautifully written with a palpable and building sense of menace. Something/someone really bad is on its/their way to Murfee!

At that point I was hooked and I flew through the remainder of the book, eagerly turning its pages and racing toward the cinematic climax. It took me two weeks to read this story but, if I am honest, most of those fourteen days were right at the beginning when I wasn’t enjoying the read and I reluctantly picked the book up. Once I was into the tale, I breezed through it in a matter of days.

This is a terrific read. The plot feels real; the characters with whom I failed to gel earlier were now lifelike, they live and breath, rising off the pages and cementing themselves into the readers’ mind. Whatever my issues with the early chapters, they were patently my own failings.

This story has some wonderful prose, some of the writing is lyrical and sublime. Having said that, though, it is a very gritty tale and is more than a little violent in parts; some nasty stuff happens or is alluded to, and some really quite bad people inhabit J. Todd Scott’s imagination. This is probably not too unsurprising given the author’s professional background. And, I assume, it is his experiences and knowledge that have helped him to craft a breathtaking, realistic and hugely enjoyable tale that, despite early misgivings, had this Englishman riveted.

The moral for this reader? Perseverance pays off. Often in a very big way. Next up from my reading pile? It has to be “High White Sun”.

*Read between 1st November and 14th November 2018

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