Review of THE AUCTIONEER by Joan Sampson

The AuctioneerThe Auctioneer by Joan Samson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE AUCTIONEER is a strange, subtle, beautifully written book about how evil comes slowly and insidiously to the small New England farming town of Harlowe in the form of Perly Dunsmore, a charismatic, handsome middle age traveler who has taken the town to his bosom, declaring it the epitome of old-fashioned values and morals.

The main couple, Mim and John Moore, are hard working farmers with a generations old farm that both of them cherish. They live with John’s elderly crippled mother and their five year old golden locked daughter Hildie–though they live simply and work endlessly, they are happy. Without warning Perly, along with the local sheriff Bob Gore, come by to pick up an item for their fundraising auction one Thursday afternoon. Mim and John give gladly, and are surprised when Perly refunds them part of the money he made selling their object. But soon Perly and the new “deputies” are coming every Thursday to collect, and the objects the Moores are forced to relinquish become more and more necessary and precious, and in an unpredictable twist John is driven by the final “auction” to either desert his ancestor’s homeland or take a violent stand.

Writing in the best Shirley Jackson tradition, that is, that evil lurks just behind a neighborly smile, Joan Sampson wrote this book in the seventies when urban dwellers in the Northwest were rushing the farmlands, trying to buy a piece of simplicity as a counterpoint to their crime-ridden cities. This book reminds me of THE CHILD BUYER, without its sardonic slant. In its own way it is a tale of horror though the horror exists in the human soul.

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