“S” is for The Taking of Libbie, SD by David Housewright – The book gets off to a rousing start when retired Minneapolis police officer, Rushmore McKenzie, is snatched from his home and thrown into the trunk of a car and driven for 6 hours to the small town of Libbie, South Dakota. Roughed up in the local police station he learns the mayor has hired bounty hunters to bring him from Minnesota because he has defrauded the town of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is hard to take a breath reading the opening chapter.
Once in Libbie the authorities realize he is not the Rushton McKenzie who has swindled them. He does not look like the crook. A few questions and it is clear that they have the wrong man.
McKenzie learns that the fraudster has stolen his identity to set up a new Rushton McKenzie in South Dakota. Cleverly the crook has not used any of McKenzie’s credit cards or accounts. He is using the stolen identity to cheat the town not McKenzie.
Desperate to make amends lovely town councillor, Tracie Blake, sweeps into his cell to offer an apology to McKenzie who is justifiably furious over his treatment.
He learns the fake McKenzie has enticed investment in a regional mall to be located on the edge of town. She further asks him to track down the imposter for the town administration and many citizens who are facing financial disaster if the money is lost.
While he does not forgive McKenzie finds himself fascinated with the fraud scheme and returns to Libbie to solve the mystery.
The South Dakota town is a central character in the mystery. As with most real life towns in rural Saskatchewan there has been a declining population in Libbie recent decades that diminishes the well being of the community and forecasts a doubtful future.
The people of Libbie want to save their town and are ready to listen to a smooth talking stranger on the prosperity to follow the development of a mall.
Trevor Herriot, in his book River in a Dry Land, sets out the rise and painful decline of the real life town of Tantallon in southeastern Saskatchewan. It is a story that could be written about hundreds of communities on the Great Plains of Canada and the United States.
While Housewright effectively describes Libbie and the readiness, even eagerness, of some to get out of town he does not do as well at capturing the spirit and joy of living in a town where everyone knows you. I believe the townspeople are less greedy than desperate for trusting and investing with the imposter.
I would not say it is a great book. There are some implausible developments near the end. I consider it a very good book. I liked it better than Tin City.
This review is my entry for "S" in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. In my next post I will discuss my connection with the book and a couple of aspects of the book. (July 21/13)