The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan
The “plowmen” of the title are Valentine Millinaki, a sheriff’s deputy in Montana, and his charge, John Gload, an aging murderer awaiting trial. Val does the night shift at the county jail in addition to his day job, which consists of tracking through the wilderness to find the missing and the most likely dead. He and Gload, a criminal of terrifying skill and little remorse, form a most unlikely friendship in this spare, beautifully written literary fiction.
One of few things the men have in common is their love of the land. Although Gload lived on the run much of the time, he always returned to the quiet farm he loved to regroup, drawing solace and strength from the land. In the same way, Val has a connection with the place he calls home, a cabin off the grid that his wife comes to hate and eventually leaves, resenting his long hours.
The men exchange stories in the dark of the jail, coming to trust each other. Val’s superiors want him to leverage this relationship to get evidence against Gload; his colleagues want to get the credit for solving old crimes. Before Gload will come to trial, some truths are revealed that will change everyone for good.
This is a debut novel for Kim Zupan, crafted with poetic, graceful prose and understanding of place. I look forward to reading more from him.
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