The story isn’t just about meth: it’s also abut what happens when dirty but well-paid jobs in extraction and manufacturing leave a rural area and a replaced by bad service-industry jobs. And it’s told through the lens of a truly bizarre case about a wealthy and respected businessman who developed an entirely new approach to credit counseling.
The series is a superb piece of reporting, describing a situation bizarre enough for a John MacDonald novel, and Herring is, in an understated way, a great stylist.
Herring is also reflective. He asks, “What’s the lesson of a case in which a long series of “victimless” crimes somehow resulted in a lot of victims?” Better yet, he doesn’t push his own answer to that question, but leaves it, in good textbook style, as an exercise for the reader.
Footnote: Note the prostitute’s paean to individual responsiblity in Part VI of the story, echoing the wider debate about the moral onus on tempters as against temptees. And verily I say unto you again, “The moral responsibilities in a situation do not sum to unity.”