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Amagansett    by Mark Mills order for
by Mark Mills
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Two fishermen haul in the body of a beautiful young woman, and so begins this haunting tale of life on the eastern seaboard. It's part murder mystery, part love story but mostly evocative of place. Amagansett is home not only to fisherpeople who must eke out a living, but also to an upper class who have built showy homes on its shores. It's the intersection of the two that makes this story reverberate.

Conrad, one of the fishermen who found the corpse, happens also to be the woman's lover. He is a Basque, a decorated war veteran and a man all alone. She was a joyous person who carried a tragic family secret. In beautifully spare prose, the author peels back both of their stories, plus that of a discredited detective who just knows that some things about the case don't add up.

This is Mills' first novel, and it's packed with interesting characters and scenes. Aspects of Conrad's life - as a child in Basque country, a boy in America, a soldier in World War II - are all touched upon. We meet, briefly, his father, stepmother, his father's friend. His fellow fishermen emerge more clearly, as does the detective. Even the victim, Lillian, is shadowy. We want more on all of these people, especially Conrad. But the writing is so absorbing that we are carried along by it.

Where Mills shines is in his depiction of a fisherman's life in that area, and in Conrad's war experience. Details of place and activity are woven into an intricate and highly believable whole, with a sly humor as part of it all. Mills is definitely an author to watch, but while we're waiting for his next work, read Amagansett. There is much to savor.

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