My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With a vast cast of characters, The Casual Vacancy plunges the reader into the small town politics of Pagford, its slum area The Fields, and its bigger, brighter neighboring town of Yarvil. The characters are all well-developed, and even the most vile are, on some level, understandable.
The story starts with a bang, when Barry Fairbrother drops dead on his way to dinner at the club, then it builds slowly and inexorably toward a powerful conclusion. Barry has left a casual vacancy — a spot on the town council — and people are immediately scrambling to fill the void and either continue what he’d started, or cancel what he’d started when he’d begun campaigning to save a rehabilitation facility. The story lines of the various characters slowly meet and braid together in this riveting, suspenseful tale.