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The Fields

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The Fields by Erin Young is a dark and compelling police procedural set in Black Hawk County, Iowa and centres around the investigation into a series of brutal murders. The deaths are curious, with the first woman being found with a number of curious and puzzling wounds, deep in a cornfield. The person in charge of the investigation is recently promoted Sergeant Riley Fisher, a woman born and bred in Black Hawk County.

Set against a backdrop of acres of cornfields, agricultural businesses competing over corn and seeds , there is much more to The Fields than a murder mystery. Riley is the grandaughter of a well respected former Chief of Black Hawk County Police and the first woman to be promoted to Sergeant. Some colleagues are unhappy with her promotion and she feels the pressure of her position daily. Throw in the fact that the murdered woman is a childhood friend of hers and things are a little messy for Riley.

Young explores the weight of responsibility upon Riley. In her personal life she is tasked with keeping her erstwhile brother on the straight and narrow and she seems to be the only person making sure that her niece is happy and healthy in the midst of a messy divorce. Professionally, she knows that all eyes are upon her and she is being pressured for quick results from her superiors. Her life is complex and ticking away in the background, is the weight of a terrible secret which she has kept locked away in a box inside her head for many years.

The book does go to some dark and macabre places which I suspect some readers won’t enjoy, and I have to admit that it did make blanch on occasion but I didn’t feel it was unnecessary. There are a number of malevolent forces at play which interweave building a pressure cooker of tension and threat. It’s really well plotted and the overall feel reminded me of early Grisham in some ways. The depictions of a hot and sultry Iowa seep from the pages and provide a contrast against the dark deeds at play.

I’m not usually a fan of police procedurals as they can be a little too heavy on the procedural side for my liking, but this has a sufficient balance between the minutiae of a murder investigation and an intriguing plot to support it. It just feels like a good old fashioned crime novel. There’s big business, a political agenda, a small town, secrets, intrigue and at its centre a great protagonist. If dark crime books with a lot of layers are your thing, then The Fields could be for you.
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The Fields is part procedural, part thriller featuring Sergeant Riley Fisher. The setting is what first caught my attention - I'm always on the lookout for books set in Iowa, even better if they're mysteries - and Young does a great job evoking a sense of place; I found this part of the book quite satisfying. I also like the idea of big ag having a central role in the plot - interesting and timely. 

Riley has a bunch of problems, personal and professional - past traumatic event that led to her making poor choices/self-loathing, deadbeat brother living with her in their family home, trying to live up to her grandfather's reputation, worries that she was promoted only to check a diversity box, tension at work because of said promotion and a one night stand - quite a lot going on/introduced just from this aspect for a first book in a series. This might draw readers to Riley, but I personally most enjoyed her partnership with Logan which is probably her only healthy relationship outside of her niece (also extremely troubled). 

As far as the mystery itself, this book is much more a thriller than a mystery you can follow the clues and solve yourself. The resolution is creative to say the least; some may roll their eyes, but I think fans of a certain type of thriller will love it. 

Recommended for fans of Karin Slaughter.
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I wanted to love this book, but was rather bored throughout. I kept waiting for something big to happen and I don't feel like it ever happened.
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A body of a woman is found in a cornfield in Iowa. Newly promoted, Sergeant Riley Fisher is the head of investigations of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office. When she gets to the scene, she recognizes the victim as Chloe Miller, a childhood friend. Some would feel that this hits too close to home, but this is Riley's first case as Sergeant, and she wants to proceed. As she investigates, another woman is horrifically murdered. A prostitute has been killed and her body left on the outskirts of town. Are these two murders connected? What do they have in common? Where were both women killed? When more bodies are found, Riley believes this is the work of a serial killer.

In Iowa, farming is the name of the game. Unfortunately, there are those in big agriculture who want to win the game and smaller family farms are having difficulty competing. This is a police procedural that also looks at farming and the agriculture industry. Things get political and Riley must deal with some political roadblocks in this book as well.

Riley is an interesting character. She is flawed and the book hints at her past and Riley does not want it to come out. The is the first book in the series and I believe there will be more character development and growth in future books.

As other reviewers have mentioned, there are a lot of characters in this book. Were they all necessary? I believe this story could have been told with less.

This book is dubbed as a debut crime thriller for the author, but please note that she also writes under Robyn Young and has written quite a few historical fiction books. It is no wonder that the writing is very polished and well done in this book. Young has honed her craft and it shows.

Book #1 is off to a good start, and I am curious what she will have Riley investigating in future books. I just hope the next book has fewer characters.

Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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"Never tell.
It was an oath she had broken first, many months later, the words heaved from her in sobs, her parents’ expressions frozen, Ethan stumbling from the room, his face ashen. The secret once shared—once detonated—had destroyed them. Not in the first blast, but slowly, inexorably. A sickness in the heart of their family. A poison that lived for years, quietly working in each of them."
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'It’s not heaven. It’s Iowa. "
----------Ray Kinsella in Shoeless Joe

Damn, did he have that right. The Iowa of Erin Young’s The Fields is a hell of a lot closer to The Children of the Corn than it is to any Field of Dreams. After spending some time in Cedar Falls and it’s larger sibling, agro-urban wasteland town, Waterloo, where the rust-belt meets the corn-belt, you might swear off dreaming altogether. Well, town might be down-playing it a bit. Between the two (both are real places) they total about 100,000 souls (not counting livestock), so maybe small cities rather than towns. Abba may have been on to something when they referred to Waterloo. (Couldn’t escape if I wanted to) Some truly can’t. One of those turns up dead in a cornfield.

If not for the University of Northern Iowa—where she’d majored in criminology—with its annual influx of students and money, Riley guessed Cedar Falls would have slumped into the same depression as Waterloo. There had been some brave attempts at regeneration in recent years—microbreweries sprouting on weed-covered lots, kayaks for hire on the Cedar River and an annual Pride festival, fulminated against by local churches. But they were fighting a strong downward pull.

"If not for the University of Northern Iowa—where she’d majored in criminology—with its annual influx of students and money, Riley guessed Cedar Falls would have slumped into the same depression as Waterloo. There had been some brave attempts at regeneration in recent years—microbreweries sprouting on weed-covered lots, kayaks for hire on the Cedar River and an annual Pride festival, fulminated against by local churches. But they were fighting a strong downward pull."

Riley Fisher is local, mid-thirties, single, grew up in Cedar Falls, her grandfather a former head of the Blackhawk County Sheriff’s Office. She knew early on that she wanted to follow in his footsteps. Now, after a detour or two along the way, she is head of investigations, to the consternation of others who had hoped for the promotion. The new-found body is in a field owned by the Zephyr Farms cooperative.

"Cooperatives were how some smaller Iowa farms had been able to survive the relentless advances of Big Ag. By dominating the market in hybrid seeds, fertilizer and pesticides—the holy trinity of crop production—through aggressive trademarking, swallowing up the competition and tactical lobbying at the highest levels of government, giants like Agri-Co had come to control much of the nation’s agricultural wealth."

Been out there for days, been ripped at in an unusual way, was maggoty, ripe, and unsettling. No problems with an ID, though, once Sergeant Fisher arrives on the scene. Chloe Miller (nee Clark) was one of Riley’s besties two decades back, in high school. But they’d gone their separate ways. Seeing Chloe brings back a terrible time from Riley’s youth, a time that had derailed her life, a time she could never forget. 

So, we are faced with two mysteries. What happened to Chloe in that field and why, and what is it about Chloe’s death that has brought Riley to such a state of emotional turmoil? Something happened back when they were still friends, something major. And the revived memories are not exactly a source of comfort. Both mysteries are peeled back like leaves on a lovely ear of you-of-what, bit by bit, the present-day crime via procedural investigation; the personal mystery through intermittent, mostly small recollections.

But wait, there’s more. The discovery of Chloe’s body is the spark that starts the action, but Young has a wider field of view in her sites. A writer of very successful (over two million sold) historical novels, she wanted to have a go at writing thrillers, finding inspiration in

"an article she read about the menacing power of Big Agriculture. A decision to set the novel in Iowa, corn-capital of the world, led her to make a fascinating journey across the state – from chance encounters with cops and farmers, and an audience with a local mayor, to shooting Glocks and getting caught in supercell storms."- from her website

A voice is given to concerns about the darker implications of increasing concentration in the age of the agro-industrial complex.

"A necessary evil, some called them. Progress, said more. But to those whose forefathers had farmed this land since the days of the first families from New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia, who’d settled here after the Black Hawk War when the Ioway had been driven west, these corporations were vultures, polluters and thieves."

(Entirely unlike the settlers who drove out the natives, I presume.) So, not exactly a tension-free relationship between local growers and the bigger side of the farming industry, personified here by the Agri-co corporation. We get a strong oppo position from an activist determined to head off even more governmental pro-corporation actions.

"Companies like Agri-Co only care about profit, not the soil and water they infect with their chemicals, or the wildlife they destroy. Cancer rates are rising from pesticides, and, still, their political allies and lobbyists help them sow their poison."

She blames the current governor, up for re-election, for his role in this. Concern with big-Ag concentrating power at the expense of smaller producers and fouling the environment in the process finds an echo in another part of the country.

"It was almost a year since Logan joined the department, moving with his folks from Flint. His father, niece, and nephew had been badly affected by the crisis there—when lead seeped into Flint’s water supply after city officials changed the system in an attempt to save money, then tried to cover up the devastating consequences."

It is clearly impossible to run from the national corporation-led degradation of our environment, or from pervasive public corruption.

Riley is an engaging lead, clever in the way we expect our fictional detectives to be. We also expect our lead to carry some personal baggage, challenges at the very least. Her beloved grandfather, Joe, has been in decline for quite a while, coherent and in possession of his memories on an increasingly part-time basis. Her brother Ethan is a bit of a disaster, divorced, a ne’er do well with some substance issues. Riley can usually count on Ethan to step back whenever she needs him to step up. Ethan’s daughter Maddie is a teenager, a decent sort, overall, in a tough situation, but, you know, a teenager, so offering the family their RDA of stress. And Riley still carries the weight of what happened all those years ago. Unfortunately, Riley is saddled with the addition to her team of Officer Cole, an asshole cop straight from central casting, toting the usual bigotries, inflated self-view, and presumptions, with an extra dose of jealousy. Thankfully, Riley’s other partner, Logan, is another good cop. 

And then a second body turns up, (not in a field) also not discovered until well past passing, also in very nasty shape, also featuring some remarkable damage. Is there a serial killer on the loose?

Thrillers have tropes like Ruffles have Ridges. Black SUVs put in an appearance. Are they good SUVs or bad SUVs? Ya gotta figure, when Riley spots a large poisonous snake on her property, (Chekov’s snake?) that it will rattle into play at some point. The question is how, when, to whom, and to what effect. News of a coming storm is another one. Usually this signals that the violent final resolution will occur against an atmospherically dramatic background. Young preps us with a mention of eight twisters having touched down in Iowa since April. Will one drop down into the mix here? Now, that would be a real twist. The upcoming Iowa State Fair is also noted, and gave me visions of snakes dropping on fair-goers, transported by a tornado, as everything is revealed in a climactic disaster scene. But Chekov surely does not have to take ownership of all these things. They could also just be foreshadowing images or external representations of the fear and turmoil Riley is experiencing, or the dangers she is facing. (But I sure do like that State Fairground snakenado notion). 

So how does the historical novelist fare at the thriller genre? Young ticks off many of the usual boxes that make up the type. The author has to make good with the reader on explaining things at the end, the main things, anyway. Check. A ticking clock? “I’ve had the county attorney on the line already. Less than two months from the state fair and with the gubernatorial coming up? You know how vital this next budget is to the department. I want this case handled quickly. Efficiently.”, so, check. Our hero must face an increasingly perilous set of challenges, no escaping, victory can only be had by overcoming. What’s she gonna do when all those snakes start dropping out of the sky (Ok. I got carried away, again.) But yeah, Riley rolls, doing battle on multiple fronts. An element of suspense? Sure. Got that. Whodunit, why, and who’s next. An appealing hero? Sure. A reliable sidekick with an alternate skill set? Yep. Logan fills the bill. Plot twists? Of course. Red herrings? Bring your fishing pole. There are a few swimming about. Alternate POVs? The story is told in third person, but there is one first person POV that appears a few times. Cliffhangers? That is what made it tough to read only 20-30 pages a night of this book. An exciting climax? Yeah, for sure, even though I was really kinda hoping for the snakenado thing, even though I know it would have been really cool silly. 

I quite enjoyed Young’s simple, but dark descriptions.

"Waterloo was lifeless in the stagnant air. Smoke seeped from factory chimneys and the Cedar flowed sluggish and brown. Although the roads were clogged with trucks and trailers, there were few people about, just a few vagrants shambling along broken sidewalks, and cleaners and hospital workers trudging to or from shifts…It wasn’t long before she saw the old meatpacking plant on the outskirts of the city…Its twin smokestacks were dark fingers against the pallid sky, old bricks the color of rust. The bottom windows were boarded over, the ones higher up mostly shattered. A chain-link fence surrounded the site, bristling with barbed wire…stepping over heaps of rubbish, she found herself in a cavernous hall. Metal steps ascended to gantries that crisscrossed in between pillars and snaking pipes, conveyor belts and wheels. It all looked like some complex ride at the state fair, only made of metal and rust, fractured glass and hooks. She imagined the steers and hogs shuddering round, the iron spike of blood, steam from spilling guts. Parts of the gantries had collapsed. In places, the floor yawned into darkness."

A good book should teach you something about the world while delivering a good story. You will certainly get a sense of the perils of Big Ag, the history of how such concentration got started, and the impact it has had on the economy and the people of this area (presumed to be comparable in all farming states) You will learn a bit about the potential and potential dangers of genetic research for crops. And will learn some Ag lingo.

Good writing is good writing whether it is for historical novels set across the pond (well, across for us in the Western Hemisphere. For her, living in Brighton, the pond is right there.) or for a gritty thriller set in America’s heartland. Young has made the transition smoothly, with an engaging procedural-cum-political-thriller, featuring a strong lead, a diverse supporting cast, well-paced action, and plenty of mystery to keep one’s curiosity on high alert, all while offering a bit of information about the world, and highlighting very real issues concerning Big Agriculture. I am looking forward to the further fleshing out of Riley’s story and those of her supporting cast. Seeds have been planted. The soil is fertile.

The shoots are emerging for the Riley Fisher series, and look very promising. A bountiful annual harvest is forecast. Volume #2 will be set in Des Moines. I am betting that when she writes it, readers will come.

"The lifeblood of rural America was being drained, leaving husks of cities, where poverty and crime rushed in to fill the void. It was a legacy all too visible in the boarded-up factories and processing plants that loomed like broken tombs around the city, haunted by vagrants and hookers, and cruised nightly by the squad cars of Waterloo PD."

Review posted – January 14, 2022

Publication date – January 25, 2022

For the full review, properly formatted, with, links and images, please visit my personal site (Cootsreviews.com) or Goodreads.
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After finishing this book, I’ve realized that I don’t enjoy crime fiction as much as I have in the past. I find that most of these stories have a stereotypical plot, and they don’t often deflect from traditional crimes, mainly murder.

In this book, there is a newly promoted sergeant (Riley Fisher) who takes on a case involving the murder of a childhood friend. As more victims are found, I expected the story to become more climactic and suspenseful, but other than the graphic nature of the murders (which weren’t as disturbing as I expected), not much really made this story stand out. I feel like I have read so many similar crime novels, and this one just falls by the wayside.

I think some readers may enjoy this book, and others might be put off by the descriptive murders, but overall it was just an ok read for me.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4457387191
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The Fields by Erin Young 
#fifthbookof2022 #arc 

CW: Murder, graphic depictions of victims, dialogue using outdated terms for sex workers, discussion of cannibalism, rape, and serial killers, drug abuse, medical experimentation, snakes 

This book should have totally been up my alley. It’s got a lady detective with a secret past, it’s a mystery with hints of politics, and it takes place in a smallish town. But in the end, this book was not for me. 

Too many points of view, for starters, the main one being the detective Riley Fisher, about 75% of the novel. But then you get one to two chapters each from the following perspectives: Riley’s niece, her aunt’s wife, the governor, a hacker from an eco-warrior group, a fellow officer, a second fellow officer, the sister of a suspect, and who knows who else I have already forgotten. It felt like these snippets were added to give or confirm bits of information that weren’t easily mentioned in the main perspective. It was too much, and some of the chapters didn’t even confirm who’s perceptive it was, you had to guess or figure it out. 

There was also simply too much going on. All of the set pieces got to be a bit much, and by the end, I just wanted it to hurry and wrap it up already. Too many tentacles of a story and I would have preferred things to be a bit more simplified. 

I have seen online that this is book one of a series. Normally I would be all about it, but this book sort of exhausted me, and I can’t imagine how complicated future books will be with this one as the starting point. 

That said, it’s an engaging, solid mystery, it just wasn’t for me in this moment. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the interesting but bizarre premise. 

Thank you to @netgalley and @flatiron for the advance copy. (Pub date 1/25/22)
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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.


Characters:

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.

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.

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.
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I requested this book for background reading for a "First Impressions" promotion we ran on BookBrowse as agreed with Flatiron marketing. You can see the reviews at https://www.bookbrowse.com/bb_briefs/detail/index.cfm/ezine_preview_number/16109/the-fields#reader_reviews -- all were sent to Flatiron when first posted.
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When a body is found in a field, Sergeant Riley Fisher arrives on the scene only to realize that the victim is a childhood friend with connections to Riley’s dark past. Must women in police procedurals always have a hidden dark past that would ruin their career if it got out? And while we’re at it, can’t they just get their promotions without some cheesedick misogynist undermining her at every turn? 
No to the second part because sexism runs rampant in the job force, especially when an entitled person feels… well… entitled to the job and convinces themselves they were only passed over out of “Political Correctness.” 
Back to the review- It originally gave me some Silence of the Lambs vibes. There were unexpected parts, and I honestly didn’t see how it would end in the first two-thirds of the book. Without spoiling it, I will say that it was a unique one among myriad thrillers that are trying to outshine each other with more and more bizarre endings. 
I like Riley Fisher and all her foibles. She is tough but vulnerable, trying to hold it all together, and trying to come to terms with a past that would bring victim shamers through the wall with their opinions. 
I noticed that The Fields is meant to be the first in a new series. I will definitely be following Riley Fisher’s further investigations. 

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this one. 
3.5/5 rounded up to 4 stars
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This was a fun and interesting cover. My first read from this author. I loved every minute of it. Couldn’t stop reading!
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The Fields by Erin Young

Published: January 25, 2022
Flatiron Books
Pages: 348
Genre: Crime Thriller, Political Thriller
KKECReads Rating: 
I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily. 

Erin Young is the pseudonym of acclaimed historical novelist Robyn Young, author of eight internationally bestselling novels. She has been published in 19 languages in 22 countries, selling two million books worldwide. THE FIELDS is her first contemporary thriller. She lives and writes in Brighton, England.

“What did justice mean when criminals got parole and victims got life?”

Riley was recently promoted to sergeant. Between dealing with jealous male coworkers who are bitter about her promotion and keeping her family drama secret, the last thing she expected to find was a body in a cornfield. Now, things start to spiral, and Riley and her team have to scramble to find a brutal killer before anyone else dies.

This was an exciting novel. While there was the classic “thriller” aspect, which was very well done, there is an entirely different element to this book. 

And not since The Dancing Girls by M.M. Chouinard has a twist been both random and terrifying. 

There were some political power plays, which were executed well, and added good drama to the story. I enjoyed the characters and getting to know them through the book.

Riley is awesome. I enjoyed that she wasn’t perfect, knew she wasn’t perfect, but that she was willing to try. No matter what, she gave her all. Her backstory is interesting, and I think as the series continues, we will get more of it, and she is coming into her own as a leader. She is tough, intelligent, and protective Uber those she loves.

Logan was a shining star for me. I loved the imagery of him moving from Michigan to Iowa and the culture shock he displayed. It was very well done. I identified with his character being a transplant as I went to college in North Dakota. Logan’s character had a nice comedic element, which sometimes kept things from being “too” intense.

Maddie, Riley’s niece, has had a rough go with her parents. But her aunt adores her, and sometimes that is enough. Maddie is coming into her own, wanting more than her small-town life, and she has a lot of trauma that hasn’t been dealt with. I do not doubt that as the series continues, we will see huge strides in this character's arc.

I enjoyed a lot of the side characters and felt they added a nice dimension to the story. The development was well done, and I think the human element was well played.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel more than I anticipated. It’s a bit out of my genre element, it’s like a political thriller, but I couldn’t put it down. I think this series has a lot of potentials, and I am stoked to be ahead of the trend in saying that.
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The Fields by Erin Young was a police procedural/ family drama story centering around the murder of women in an Iowan farm community.

This started out slow for me. There were a lot of characters to keep straight and a lot of side plots happening. It all came together in the last 40% of the book. The pace and action picked up and things started to make more sense.

I’m from a farming community so I was really interested in the bio engineering mystery behind the story. I also really liked the main character, police detective, Riley Fisher, and her partner Logan. They had great chemistry. 

Lots of mystery and intrigue with some family skeletons coming out to add some spice. I’ll read more from Erin Young.
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DNF @ 10%

A majority of the first part of this book is preaching about the horrors of corporate farming which is definitely important, but it got exhausting.  Also, the writing style and some of the tropes being set up immediately turned me off. This just isn't for me
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The following comments and review are my honest opinion.
As smaller farms are being overtaken by large agricultural firms, what seemed like a promising answer to helping those small farmers and world hunger, soon turns political, involving foreign entities, missing persons and murder, lots of murder.  Riley Fisher, newly appointed Sergeant of the Iowa Black Hawk Sheriff’s Department and her team relentlessly follow leads that go nowhere as bodies are found with shocking and unbelievable wounds. A good novel of horror and tenacious police work. I received an early copy of this book from the Author, Erin Young, NetGalley and Publisher, Flatiron Books.
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The first in a new series by this debut Author, The Fields follows Riley Fisher, newly promoted Sergeant at the Black Hills County Sheriff's Office in Iowa. When a body is found in cornfields, Riley has to track down the killer - but she soon realizes that the victim was a school friend. 

Another body is discovered, and the hunt is on for a serial killer. This procedural is fast moving for the most part, and is particularly violent and gritty in its descriptions of the murder scenes. There are the usual tensions within the team, previous relationships coloring officers abilities to work together, as well as the fact that Riley has a previous connection to the victim that she doesn't fully disclose. Her personal story becomes important as the plot progresses. 

The book highlights the way Big Agriculture is affecting family farms, and there are a number of political connections pursued in the plot, both in the way Big Ag is presented, and also in the way that local politics affects Riley's ability to solve the crime. 

I thought the setting of the book and its connections to Big Ag were interesting, and the characters were multi dimensional, all with flaws that became apparent. The plot went in directions I didn't expect as the investigation continued. 

All in all I enjoyed the book, and I am likely to read the next in the series. 
I received a free ARC of The Fields by Erin Young from Macmillan in an exchange for an honest review
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✨BOOK REVIEW✨

✨SYNOPSIS- A young women’s body is found in an Iowa cornfield brutally murdered. Hometown girl, Detective Riley Fisher, is called to the scene. As she starts to dig into the murder the lies, secrets, and corruption of this Iowa farm town unravel and spin wildly out of control. 

✨THE GOOD- The fact that this author is from England and absolutely, positively nailed Iowa demographics, the people, the politics, and the towns was incredible. The book takes place in Waterloo and I did some of my student teaching there. The town has major crime issues and low poverty and this author couldn’t have depicted the city’s issues any better. As someone who married into a small family farming operation she completely understood the nuances of big agriculture versus the small farms. I was a little nervous how she was going to portray big Ag but she painted the correct picture of what it is like to be a small farm operation and how corrupt big Ag can be. Also, and my personal favorite is she references my hometown of Okoboji perfectly! That place will always be near and dear to my heart and she gave the reader the perfect image! 

 ✨THE MEH- I love slow burn mysteries. Some of my favorite books last year were fabulous slow burners. This plot however just drug on and on with nothing happening. I would find myself skimming ahead to see if anything major had happened. I also love characters and want to know everything about them. My issue with this book was there were waaaayy too many characters. There were so many that I lost track who was who! Once you get over 30 characters, things just get out of hand. 😳 

✨RATING- ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you @netgalley and @flatiron_books for this arc in exchange for my thoughts.
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The Fields is a procedural debut that transports the reader into a gritty world of corruption and murder set against the backdrop of Iowa’s agricultural industry. Quick assessment: I would recommend this book to any fans of Karin Slaughter’s work, or those who’ve rewatched any/all the serial killer episodes of Criminal Minds too many times to be healthy (just speaking from experience)

Based on those comparisons, I would definitely say I enjoyed this, but I’m unsure if it was unique enough to stand out, or if I will continue with the series in the future. It moved at a glacial pace sometimes, I found it difficult to keep track of all the random side characters, and the mystery’s conclusion wasn’t particularly mind-blowing. I think part of my neutrality on the whole thing could be blamed on procedurals being, simply, not my favorite kind of thriller to read. Additionally, there were some minor stylistic issues I had, but those will probably be ironed out in the final copy + in future books, as the author gains experience in the genre.

That being said, I really vibed with how the case related to the main character’s backstory/family, connecting her to the mystery in a personal way. Riley’s POV was by far my favorite, especially as we got the learn more about her ties to the missing/murdered women. The book also asserted itself as one of the more gruesome thrillers I’ve read in a while; be warned, Young does not shy away from any descriptions. I love a little gore, but I can see some readers definitely finding it over the top. Lastly, I liked the importance of the setting. Corn fields + horror are not an uncommon pair (Children of the Corn, There’s Someone Inside Your House, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, etc.). But, The Fields takes it a step further by bringing up conversations surrounding Big Agro companies, and the way that places have been irreversibly changed by their involvement in farming. It’s grim, but was an interesting element to the story, and not one that I have seen before.
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This mystery/thriller, the first in a planned series, follows Sergeant Riley Fisher when she arrives at the scene of a woman found dead in a corn field. The case becomes personal when Fisher realizes the woman is a childhood friend and reminds Fisher of a dark point in her past she thought she left behind.  What starts out as a seemingly straightforward investigation soon branches off as more victims are found and Fisher finds connections to something much larger than the small Midwest town.

TW/CW: cannibalism, drug abuse, medical experimentation, sexual assault (rape) of a minor

 The first point I want to make right away is that, in my opinion, the description/cover/title of this book do not in any way indicate just how graphic and violent this book gets.  For me, this was a big plus!  For other readers, this can be a big problem and I have seen some DNF reviews that had a problem with this exact point.  I was expecting a kinda quiet police procedural story set in a rural Midwest town.  And while that is the core of the book, the actual crimes depicted and how much of those crimes end up on-page were quite surprising.  Most of this book does follow Fisher in her investigation so we get descriptions of the crimes through her but there are a few chapters from other POVs that have a much more direct connection to the darker parts of these crimes and we do see some graphic scenes on page in those chapters. Each reader is going to have different lines in the sand, but for me, the graphic choices Young made in this book never cross the line into gratuitous but I can absolutely see how that would cross the line for other readers.  For me, Young walked a really tight line of balancing the graphic nature of the crimes with the investigation and, in the end, I found the payoff to be well-earned.

I loved the characters in this book and I'm so glad the author is planning on making this a series so we can see how the relationships develop.  Riley Fisher is the first female sergeant in the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office which is pressure enough.  But then when the mutilated body of a local woman shakes the small town, Fisher is faced with even more pressure to find the killer and close the case.  We get a great balance between Fisher's professional life and her rocky home life and we see how each affects the other.  These different areas pulling on Fisher's time really helped her become a very fleshed out and realistic character. She's flawed and has baggage just like everyone else and we see her deal with these struggles (although with different amounts of success at times).  The other characters in the world - the other police officers as well as her family - are also well developed and I especially loved the different types of relationships we see on page.  I think this is a complex and interesting group of characters that I'd love to follow into the next book in the series.

The one part that fell flat for me was the integration and connection of wider outside threats to this town. I knew from the description that there was going to be some sort of outside threat or connection which from an overall plot perspective, I think was great.  I had some problems with the pacing and actual narrative way those plot points were worked into the story.  The first 20% of this book is following Fisher and her investigation.  That was a pretty significant portion of the book and was long enough for me, as a reader, to settle in and get comfy with these characters, setting, and plot line.  So then, when the next chapter is removed from the town and investigation, it felt very jarring and confusing.  Now, I know that this chapter wouldn't be included unless it was important to the story in some way.  As the book progresses, we do get more of these other chapters that seemingly follow a different plot line that is completely separate from Fisher's murder investigation.  Again, I know as a reader that the plot lines should converge at some point (and they do), but as I was reading these other chapters really felt like they were potholes in the road. They were all pretty short and over quickly, but they disrupted my reading experience and I had a hard time understanding how/why they were a part of the road (overall story).  Fisher's plot line probably took up 85% of the story and the other 15% was this other plot line outside of town and this split, for me, was just enough to be disruptive while at the same time not being enough to be pulled into and enjoy that other side of the story.  I think if we had gotten this other plot line earlier in the book and it was more significant percentage of the book then that would help the two lines mesh together better.  I generally like split POV/plot line stories but this one just didn't come together great for me in the reading experience. 

 As this is a police procedural, the investigation is really front and center in this book - as it should be.  That being said, I think Young's writing style was really engaging and she does a great job of adding in these layers to the writing that help the story feel so much more exciting and eventful than a typical police procedural.  For example, I really noticed how much movement the characters have - they're walking around the office, driving to a new scene, multitasking while on the phone, etc.  As a lover of police procedurals, I can admit they can get a bit boring in places especially when all the lab tests results, coroner's report, etc start coming in.  There can be a good amount of info-dumping going on in those sections and most of that info won't be immediately impactful to the investigation.  Young, however, managed to balance all this same info-dumping with so much character movement and other activities happening in the same moment that it never felt like the characters were just sitting around and reading these medical reports aloud.  There was also a fantastic way of layering when the information came into the investigation, often while the characters were still actively investigating other leads.  Again, this left almost no downtime on the page as the characters were pretty consistently moving from one scene to the next, one interview to the next. There were a lot of good reveals in this story and seeing how all the pieces of these different plot lines came together in the end was fantastic. 

The ending to this book is a little over-the-top but I really liked where the story ended up.  The second plot line based out of town that I addressed earlier comes barreling in at about the 75% mark and then it is full speed ahead.  The ending does veer a bit into political-thriller category and integrates Midwest farming concerns over big-agriculture companies buying out and taking over family farms. I think Young did a really good job weaving in these bigger ideas into what started out as just a small town murder investigation but not all readers are going to appreciate that slight curve in the narrative.  I've never lived in a rural small town in Iowa, but based on the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Young spent a good amount of time traveling in the area and talking with local police officers and politicians to get a better grasp on the issues that people living in these towns experience (which is impressive considering Young resides in Brighton, England).  I really enjoyed the way the different plot lines all came together in the end and while this is the planned first book in a series, all the major lines are wrapped up pretty neatly so it can 100% be read as a standalone.

 Overall, I really enjoyed this read!  I loved the characters, investigation, and the graphic depths the story surprised me with.  I had a little bit of trouble with the way the chapters on other plot line were integrated in the story but I think the ending payoff was well earned.  This was a really surprising read and I loved how the story veered off in an unexpected direction a few times.  I look forward to reading more books in this series in the future.

 Thanks NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the ARC

 Expected publication date is January 25, 2022
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This book is a strong beginning for a new series.  The author doesn't shy away from gory detail.  The characters grow as the story progresses and everything ties together nicely at the end.  I really felt that things began to come together when I was half way through.  
The plot seems to be going in a couple, independent directions, at once.  First there is the person history of the main character, Riley, as she struggles with the memories that haunt her, brought fresh to the surface by the murder case she is investigating.
Second, is the murder case itself. Chloe, a childhood friend of Riley, is gruesomely murdered, the body found in a corn field.  Soon after another body is found.  There appears to be a vicious serial killer starting his career in this farming community and Riley is afraid the FBI behavioral agents consulting on the case, will end up taking it from the local law enforcement.
Third, there is the political corruption fueled by greed.  All these loose threads do tie together.  

Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron books / MacMillan for the opportunity to enjoy this engaging police procedural e-ARC.
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