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Books 105: The Whaleboat House by Mark Mills

Book 105: The Whaleboat House (Amagansett ).
Author: Mark Mills, 2004.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1940s Long Island. Murder Mystery
Other Details: Paperback. 358 pages.

Long Island, 1947. The men of Long Island have fished the wild Atlantic waters over the centuries. For Conrad Labarde, recently returned from the Second World War, the nets hold a sinister catch – the body of Lillian Wallace, a beautiful New York socialite. Is it an accident or murder? Police chief Tom Hollis is convinced the roots of the tragedy lie in the twisted histories of local families. But the enigmatic Labarde insists on pursuing his own investigation. It seems the fisherman may have powerful reasons for wanting answers to the questions surrounding her death. And in this strange place where tradition meets power and riches, the truth is a rare thing indeed… - synopsis from author's website.

Mark Mills début novel had originally been titled Amagansett but was renamed in later editions. I felt that Mills did an excellent job of in terms of his story and characters as well as powerfully evoking the atmosphere of this post-war Long Island community. Especially notable was the contrast between the wealthy New Yorkers, who have luxurious second homes in the Hamptons, and the locals, who have fished the waters of the Atlantic for hundreds of years and retained many of the traditions of their European ancestors. The tension between these two very different communities runs throughout the novel, informing the central mystery.

This was the July selection for our library reading group and our entire group enjoyed the novel and felt it was an accomplished début and certainly worthy of the CWA's Best First Novel Award, which it won in 2004.

Mark Mills' page on 'The Whaleboat House' - gives some background on what inspired him to write the novel.
Tags: award winner, crime fiction, murder mystery, period fiction (20th century)
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