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Salt of the Earth

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Using the 1985 disappearance of 12-year-old Brenda Gere from her home in rural Washington as his focal point, veteran true-crime writer Jack Olsen does his best to create a sweeping saga of sorrow and redemption. Alas, for all Olsen’s compassion and considerable storytelling ability, the tale never rises far above the level of movie-of-the-week fare. The innocent victim, her devastated family, the determined investigators, the hateful psychopathic kidnapper, and his desperately deluded family have become such familiar figures in the American landscape as to render Salt of the Earth more numbing than ennobling. Even so, nothing Olsen writes is ever dull. B