The Far Empty

The Far Empty Book Cover The Far Empty
J. Todd Scott
G.P Putnam's Sons
June 9, 2016

In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil.

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff’s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee’s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb’s father and Chris’s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford “Judge” Ross. Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it’s a debut novel you won’t soon forget.


The Far Empty came into my possession thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.

The summary for The Far Empty describes the story as “a modern Western”, a pinpoint summary of the novel. Author J. Todd Scott’s descriptions paint a vivid imagery of the desolate Texas landscape. In west Texas near the border it is not exactly a peaceful area as the border is ripe with people coming into the US, both individuals seeking a better life in America as well as members of the cartels. Scott’s experience as a DEA agent shows throughout the whole novel and makes the story seem much more real.

There are a fair number of characters in the book and each chapter jumps between their perspectives. You have the tough-as-nails sheriff, his distant son, deputies that range from honorable to psychotic, and townsfolk who find themselves wrapped up in the dark secrets hiding underneath this seemingly pleasant little Texas town. The (fictional) town of Murphey is your stereotypical Texas town. Where the bulk of the town taxes are spent on high school football and the quarterbacks are living legends. The Varsity Blues syndrome at its finest. But beneath all of that there is conspiracy and danger.

This story starts out as a fairly standard mystery story. An unidentified body is found by a deputy and there is more to it than a normal John Doe. Is it an illegal immigrant who did not survive a trip across the border? Does it have something to do with the cartels? Could it be someone else entirely, and how exactly did they get there? The story is not paced perfectly but moves along steadily enough to keep audiences entertained. The shootouts and other action scenes are brief but intense following build-ups of drama.

The characters range pretty far across the board. Some of them are more developed than others; honestly, at one point I forgot that Caleb (the sheriff’s son) existed because there had not been a chapter from his perspective in so long and he had not done too much in the story up to that point. The big climax at the end of the story was also a bit predictable. It is what you would typically expect from this type of story and was foreshadowed pretty heavily. Even so, The Far Empty was a fantastic first book for J. Todd Scott and I look for to his future works.

April 23, 2017

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