Former D.A. William Landay explodes onto the suspense scene with an electrifying novel about the true price of crime and the hidden corners of the criminal justice system. Only an insider could so vividly capture Boston's gritty underworld of cops and criminals. And only a natural storyteller could weave this mesmerizing tale of murder and memory, a story about the hold of time past over time present-and the story of one unforgettable young policeman who ventures into the most dangerous place of all.By a gleaming lake in the forests of western Maine, outside a sleepy town called Versailles, the body of a man lies sprawled in a deserted cabin. The dead man was an elite D.A. from Boston, and his beat was that city's toughest neighborhood: Mission Flats.
Forced by circumstances to become a small-town cop, the protagonist of former Boston district attorney Landay's inventive, gripping suspense debut finds himself embroiled in a big-city murder investigation. Ben Truman, the young police chief in the Maine town of Versailles (pronounced "Ver-sales"), tells us early on that he gave up his pursuit of a doctorate in history at Boston University to come home and care for his Alzheimer's-stricken mother. What he doesn't reveal-at least right away-is the true story of his mother's death and his father's alcoholic rages. Landay deals out pertinent details with the finesse of a poker player, first describing Ben's discovery of the bloated body of a Boston assistant district attorney in a rental cabin. Is the discovery really accidental Is the almost immediate arrival on the scene of a retired Boston cop named John Kelly as fortuitous as it seems at first Can Ben really be as much of a small-town hick (the Boston cops call him "Opie") as he appears to be Determined to stay on the case, Ben joins a crew of big-city cops and prosecutors (including Kelly's intriguing daughter) in a search through the blighted (fictional) Boston neighborhood of Mission Flats for the answer to the ADA's murder and a 10-year-old mystery. As bits of his personal history surface, Ben occasionally seems in danger of violating one of the rules of crime fiction-that the narrator shouldn't lie to us about his role in the story. But Landay's book is such a rich, harrowing and delightful read that few will complain. (Aug. 26) Forecast: Landay's strong writing and imaginative plotting give him an edge; foreign rights to Mission Flats have already been sold in eight countries. With a little marketing muscle, this could be a hit. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 26, 2003
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Excerpt from Mission flats by William Landay
On screen, a woman lounges on a rubber float, her face toward the sun, fingertips trailing in the water. The float is shaped like a doughnut. It turns in lazy circles. The beach is in frame, on the left. The woman is pregnant; the madras shirt over her bathing suit does not disguise her distended belly. She lifts her head and faces the camera, and her mouth forms the words "Stop it! Turn that thing off! Look at me!" The camera shakes, apparently with laughter. The woman rolls her eyes and shakes her fist, the silent-movie gesture for frustration. Soundlessly she says to the camera, "Hi, Ben," then she joins in the laughter before laying her head down again to drift some more.
The woman is my mother, and the baby in her belly is me. It is early summer, 1971. I will be born a month later.
This little eight-millimeter film (it ran two or three minutes, tops) was among my mother's prized possessions. She kept it in a yellow Kodak box tucked under the brassieres and stockings in the top drawer of her bureau where, she thought, thieves were not likely to look. There were not many thieves in our town, and the few we had were not interested in grainy old movies of pregnant women. But Mum was convinced of its value, and every now and then she could not resist burying her hand in that drawer to feel for the box, just to be sure. When it rained, she would lug out a twenty-pound Bell & Howell movie projector and show the movie on the living-room wall. She'd stand by the wall, point to her belly, and announce, with vestiges of a Boston accent, "There you ah, Ben! There you ah!" Sometimes she got wistful and teary. Over the years, I guess we watched that clip a hundred times. It still runs in my head, familiar, my own Zapruder film. I don't know exactly why my mother loved it so much. I suppose that to her it documented a transition, the moment of equipoise between girlhood and motherhood