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Mark Mills
In Print
Putnam (2004)

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This entry created 15 January 2019. Last revised on 16 January 2019.

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©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
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a novel

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star (10.00)

394 pages. Map in endpapers, acknowledgments.

I've been reading – and enjoying! – the historical thrillers from Mark Mills over the past few months, but had put off reading this novel (his first) because I wasn't sure I would be interested in a 'fishing' thriller.

I was wrong.

The first thing you should know about this novel is that it is structured like a puzzle box, so that the author is still revealing hints and mysteries down to the final page. Which makes it hard to discuss the novel without giving away information you'll have more fun discovering as you read the novel.

The second thing is that, like all of Mills' novels, there are numerous flashbacks to earlier times and a deep involvement in the lives of the major characters. The novel is set in post-war New York State, but the author takes us back to WWI, the 20s and 30s, and definitely to WWII. And the author convinces you that he knows all about fishing off Long Island back in the day.

Now, to specifics. The novel has two main characters, and the author doesn't reveal which is the protagonist until quite a way into the book. First, there is Conrad the Basque, the fisherman who finds the body of a young woman in his net. He has a deep and intricate past, involving his relationship with his father and brother, and his service in WWII. Then there's Hollis, the local cop who is assigned to the case, a gifted investigator who has fallen on hard times, forced to work in a small town, and his wife has left him.

Who is the young lady from the sea? Did she drown, or was this murder? If she went for a swim, why is she wearing earrings?

I have to say that I enjoyed this novel a great deal, definitely one of the author's best.

Can you game it? The book is full of strong characters that could easily stroll into a Pulp or crime campaign. Conrad's WWII experience, as it is gradually revealed, will also be of interest for skirmish-level WWII gamers!

Note that the novel does include scenes of violence (including war violence), autopsy details, and a few steamy sexual scenes.

I can't recommend this novel highly enough.