Author Christopher Bollen has spun a gripping tale of culture clashes with murder as the backdrop. The murder mystery is certainly intriguing, but I was drawn in by the people in this town.
The year-round residents want to keep the new people out. The new people want to be accepted. The residents who split their time between the city and this wealthy little enclave are caught in the middle. Paul Benchley is caught in the middle. He's returned to Orient to clean up the family home and restore it to it's glory. However, Paul is not alone. He's got a moody young man with him named Mills. A busy-body like Pam Muldoon wonders what spell Mills has put on Paul. Maybe Paul has lost his marbles and can't see that's he's being hustled. Not likely! Paul feels sorry for this lost young man and knows he can help Mills get on the right track. Mills is in charge of cleaning out Paul's house, but wonders what will happen when he's worn out his welcome.
Beth Shepherd is another Orient native who is caught in the middle. She's come back to town with her artist husband, Gavril. She had dreams of becoming an artist herself, but will have to live vicariously through her husband. Beth isn't sure what to do with her life. She's stuck. To make matters worse, she's pregnant and reluctant to tell Gavril. Who can she turn to? One of her best friends, Magdalena is dead. Was it murder? Magdalena was old, and already had one foot in the grave. But Magdalena died soon after another mysterious death. A death that Magdalena was convinced was foul play. Beth wasn't sure she should believe the ravings of an old woman.
More people meet their demise -- under mysterious circumstances. Quickly, rumors begin swirling in this small town. Maybe an outsider is responsible for all the turmoil in town. Someone like Mills! It's too easy for it be Mills. He's an easy scapegoat. An unlikely alliance is formed between Beth and Mills. Both work to uncover the truth.
This book is a shade over 600 pages, but don't be scared by that. It's the perfect mix of literary fiction and mystery fiction. The character interaction not the murder plot grabbed me. Each chapter you learn a little more about Mills. In the beginning, he comes off as a moody teenager. But slowly his tough exterior begins to soften. At first I thought Beth was a little ditzy, but she's a smart cookie. This was a complex but engaging read.
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.