‘Forsaken Country’ by Allen Eskens. Mulholland, 304 pages, $28
Redemption has been a recurring theme in crime fiction since the genre was created. Allen Eskens exquisitely tackles this motif in “Forsaken Country,” his fourth novel about former Minneapolis homicide detective Max Rupert.
More than three years ago, Max gave up his career as a respected police detective, sold his house and abandoned his friends, retreating to an isolated cabin in the Minnesota woods as a kind of penance for killing the man who murdered his wife. Max doesn’t feel guilty nor does he feel remorse as the man was a violent thug.
But Max uses his self-imposed exile to come to terms with the darkness inside him. Max is a good man, though he often doesn’t believe he is one. Max lives in his own “Forsaken Country” that he created.
Reluctantly, Max agrees to help former Itasca County Sheriff Lyle Voight and his wife, Meredith, who are concerned that their daughter Sandy has disappeared along with her 6-year-old son, Pip. The day she disappeared, Sandy had withdrawn most of the savings from her bank account, packed up all their belongings and left.
The Voights know she would not leave without telling them. They also believe that Reed Harris, her violent, abusive ex-husband and Pip’s father, somehow is responsible. The Voights also have gotten no help from Tate Bolger, the current sheriff who beat Lyle in the recent election and who is close friends with Reed.
The search for mother and child fuels the brisk plot, but “Forsaken Country” spins on Eskens’ in-depth character studies. The complicated Max will learn how much he needs people and civilization as the case will lead him to intense self-analysis. Eskens also delves into the villains of “Forsaken Country,” especially one man who must come to terms with his “crushing weight of failure,” due to his despicable actions.
Eskens imbues “Forsaken Country” with vivid scenery, especially the Boundary Waters, 1.3 million acres of wilderness that reaches into Canada.
Eskens is at the top of his skills with “Forsaken Country”
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at [email protected].