An intricate and often intriguing exploration of tensions and secrets in a small town.
In Prill’s mystery novel, an Iowa-based detective, assigned to investigate a former soldier’s death in a nearby rural community, uncovers killings stretching back to the 1940s.
In a time-jumping opener, businessman Richard Frost leaves his home in Brinson, Iowa, on November 7, 1940, never to be seen again, and an unnamed man in his mid-60s in 2020 receives a manuscript that claim to reveal the “truth”: “Everything in this book is true. It’s not historical fiction. It’s not based on enhanced memories—it is the truth.” The novel then delves into the life-changing 1970 experiences of Brent Frost, a high school freshman in Brinson, and 41-year-old Fred Barnes, an Iowa Crimes Commission detective from Des Moines, who comes to the rural town to address a request to investigate the suspicious suicide of a Vietnam veteran. Barnes, who’s recently widowed, soon becomes romantically involved with the requestor, Janice Hinton. Brent, meanwhile, attracts the interest of a local girl after he takes a dare to find out what’s hidden in an area barn. The son of the missing businessman also returns to town, looking for closure. Investigations escalate when telltale evidence turns up in a local well, a fisherman reports that something is stuck in the nearby lake, and Barnes discovers a strange pattern of deaths; later, there’s a tense showdown. In this book, Prill effectively pivots from his previous historical novels set in ancient Rome, including From the Realm of Time (2020), to craft an enjoyable heartland mystery that offers a diverse range of characters—including several surprise criminals and victims. Given the complexity of the world that the author sets in motion, some readers may feel that the dense narrative is challenging to follow at times. Thankfully, Prill also provides a character list upfront for easy reference, as well as an extended epilogue that entertainingly wraps up the fates of this story’s many colorful players.
A historical mystery with heart and intrigue, Where the Corn Grows Tallest is filled with twists and turns. It follows a detective, Fred Barnes, who’s being plagued by a dark moment in his past, and a teenager, Brent, from a small town that only seems to get smaller. Taking place in the American ‘70s when the Vietnam War was a hot-button social issue, the novel approaches the topic with representation on both sides of the controversy. Connecting the disappearance of a businessman in the ‘40s and the suspicious death of a young Vet in the ‘70s, this easy-to-read mystery will keep readers guessing.
The cast of characters, while large, is accompanied by a format that makes keeping track of names simple. The chapters are short and flow with ease between perspectives. For those who remember the time periods being addressed, Prill’s book will make an intriguing throwback and look into the history of America’s heartland and rural Iowa. With likable main characters in relatable and sometimes heartbreaking situations, readers of mysteries and historical fiction with dynamic plots may enjoy this very much. From the standpoint of someone interested in history, murder mysteries, and America’s past, this book was a great read!
My wife purchased a copy of your book, Where the Corn Grows Tallest. I noticed that it was a mystery, so I claimed it to read first. I use the local library and usually look for Mysteries and Western books.
I read the book in less than a week and will probably read it again next month. Scott, I must say that your book is in the top five percent of all the mystery books that I have ever read!
The first thing I saw when I opened the book was that it had a “Cast of Characters”. Most books do not have that feature and sometimes when I put the book down for a couple of days, I get the good guys and the bad guys mixed up.
At the end of each chapter of your book, I think I know who the bad people are. Then in the next chapter, you write information that changes my mind. This continued to the end of the book and made the entire book an interesting read.
Well done! When will your next mystery book be ready? I will be first in line to buy one.
- Ed Mrizek
ScottPPrill Author Blog