Matt Forney
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Hypergamous: Murder in a Small Town by Max Davisson

Reading Hypergamous is like going to see a tribute band. One of my friends plays bass in a Who cover band; he and his bandmates are excellent musicians and they make pretty good money from gigging. The problem is that as good as they are, I’m not interested in seeing other people playing songs I’ve heard on the radio a million times. If I want to listen to “Baba O’Riley” or “Riders on the Storm,” I want to hear the original musicians playing them, not some no-names from the town over the next hill.

Thing is, if people actually wanted to hear original material, every shitty hipster band would be raking it in, so I’ll just have to console myself to being in a curmudgeonly minority.

That’s Hypergamous: the literary equivalent of a tribute band. It’s a competently written, reasonably compelling true crime-style novella that weaves in manospheric themes. But there’s nothing about it that stands out; it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done a million times already.

The plot concerns Vic Ferderber, an honest if underachieving family man whose body is found inside the trunk of his car at the bottom of a river. From there, the story moves to a nonlinear narrative alternating between the police investigation and subsequent trial, Vic’s strained relationship with his slutty wife Jo Ann, both of their upbringings, and the lives of the people in the titular “small town” of Midway. I presume Midway is supposed to be in Minnesota, mainly due to the book’s repeated references to the “Minnetonka River”:

“If that dick was here right now,” Kevin said, getting loud and standing up, “I’d punch him in the face. I’d knock him down, the faggot. I’d kick him in the stomach.” He punched the surface of the table. “I’d take his head,” Kevin grabbed the gas can, “just like this, and I’d slam it –” He bashed the side of the gas can against the table hard enough to dent it. “Right into the fucking concrete.” He slammed it again, then again.

Davisson does an excellent job of sketching life in Midway and the motivations of each of the characters, and he also resists forcing the theme of the book—the hypergamous, status-seeking nature of Vic’s wife—down your throat like it’s a horse pill. Still, I couldn’t get excited about Hypergamous. Davisson’s prose is believable but workmanlike, with little in the way of flourish; nothing about the book leaped out at me or made me think twice. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it doesn’t go out of its way to achieve either.

Basically, Hypergamous is a good novella if you’re looking for a reasonably interesting murder mystery. Just don’t set your expectations too high.

Click here to buy Hypergamous: Murder in a Small Town.

Read Next: Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion by Mark Ames