Sunday, July 24, 2011
"Amagansett", by Mark Mills
Also published under the title “The Whaleboat House”
Amagansett is a clever story set in 1947, in a small working class village east of the Hamptons. The white sandy beaches and dunes have been inhabited by rugged fishermen for years and have come to attract the wealthy and cultured city folk during their summer vacation. As travel became easier, a different class of people frequented the area, rich sports fisherman put a strain on locals whose livelihood depended on the ocean’s bounty for their survival. Where tension grows, trouble is sure to follow…..
Its central plot: part mystery, part thriller and part historical fiction involves money, elite members of society, conniving bad guys, corrupt law enforcement, a war hero and a sexy cop. It opens when Conrad Labarde and Rollo Kemp, fishermen, snag what appears to be a dead weight. When they pull it out of the water much to their horror they discover the body of Lillian Wallace, a beautiful socialite and daughter of a powerful man.
Deputy Chief Tom Hollis is lead investigator and one of his first priorities is to question family and friends. This turns out to be quite a challenge, the locals are not cooperative and all appear to be hiding something. To make things worse, his superiors pressure him from the other side, they want him to wrap up his investigation without delay and declare the incident an accidental drowning and move on. Something smells fishy…..
The storyline meanders at times, slowly unraveling into a “who-done-it” coloured with local myths that are expertly told through fisherman folklore and tales of the sea that go back to the times of the Montaukette Indians. A flashback to the war and other nuggets of history and some tender love moments all add colour to the story.
This tale is powerfully told and shines in its depiction of the fishermen’s ways of life and their sacrifices during the war. The dialogue, characterization and plotting are riveting. Some may find the pacing to be a bit slow, I did at first but soon found myself absorbed in this intricately woven tale. This is an excellent and captivating novel.