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THE TAKING OF LIBBIE, SD by David Housewright: Book Review

Rushmore McKenzie has more lives than a cat. In the first chapter of The Taking of Libbie, SD McKenzie is kidnapped, Tasered, thrown in a trunk, and driven from his home in Minnesota to Libbie, South Dakota, a town whose motto is RULES, REGULATIONS, AND RESPECT.  You think?

Rushmore McKenzie (what were his parents thinking?) is a former policeman who was able to retire when he came into a great deal of money.  Now McKenzie spends his time doing favors for friends, as he puts it.  But was it doing a favor that landed him in Libbie, SD?

It turns out there is a relatively simple explanation for the two men who abducted him and brought him across the state border. Several weeks before, a man using McKenzie’s name had fleeced the small town out of a big chunk of its annual budget, just how much no one will say.  The impostor said his company wanted to build a shopping mall, and the town council and the mayor were only too happy to hand over money to get the ball rolling.  The only problem was that there were no plans to build the mall, and The impostor left town in the middle of the night and hasn’t been seen since.  Two thugs, hired by the town’s arrogant and wealthy mayor, were sent to pick McKenzie up and bring him back to Libbie for justice, but when he was deposited at the police station everyone recognized that he wasn’t the man they were looking for.

You’d think the real McKenzie would head home to the Twin Cities at this point, which he does, but only to say goodbye to his friends and then return to South Dakota.  He’s determined to find the man who used his name so convincingly.

For a small town, there’s a lot going on in Libbie, SD.  Besides the shopping mall fraud, there’s arson, adultery, and agoraphobia, and that’s only the a’s.  When two people are murdered shortly after McKenzie returns, he’s more determined than ever to find out what’s really happening in this town.

David Housewright knows a lot of interesting facts  about life in rural South Dakota.  Never having even passed through that part of the country, the remoteness of it is amazing to me–no clothing stores within five or six hours of this town; entire counties in the state without physicians; college graduates departing the Great Plains for the cities, leaving behind an elderly population having a hard time dealing with things economically and emotionally.  That partially explains the town’s eagerness to invest in the shopping mall scheme–it’s something to bring money and life back to a town with no future.  It’s a sad portrait of a dying part of America.

This ex-cop is a bit different from the usual detective hero, and I like him.  He has a lot of depth, thinks things through, and when he does something that he later feels isn’t right, he suffers for it.  This is the seventh book about Rushmore McKenzie, and I plan to go back to see how he got to be who he is now.

You can read more about David Housewright at his web site.

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