Kim Zupan | Booklist Review of The Ploughmen

Booklist Review of The Ploughmen

Issue: September 1, 2014
The Ploughmen.
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Zupan, Kim (Author)Oct 2014. 272 p. Holt, hardcover, $26.
(9780805099515). Holt, e-book, (9780805099522).

First novelist Zupan tells the tale of two men: an aging professional killer, John Gload, who has finally been apprehended, and the deputy who guards him, Valentine Millimaki. Both men are insomniacs, and through the interminable nights, they find solace in each other’s company. Millimaki is a nuanced, appealing character, and Gload is fascinating in the manner of Hannibal Lecter. No great crime is solved here, though, and Gload himself—even when he escapes—fails to show even a dram of goodness. What Zupan offers is a superb, retro prose style, channeling William Faulkner in long passages engorged with vocabulary, and meditations on what it means to be alive, if barely, in rural Montana circa 1980. Millimaki is sometimes drawn away on his specialty: tracking skiers and addled old people who have gone lost in the vastness of mountains and high plains. He takes along his marvelous dog, Tom, and that’s when he’s most alive, trailing death. Zupan provides a satisfying climax, but his debut isn’t really about plot; it’s mostly a rich, morose meditation on death, law enforcement, and friendship.

— John Mort

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