Jack McMorrow, a former New York Times reporter has come to Maine to run the weekly local newspaper. When a seemingly friendless and ineffective staff photographer is found drowned in the river, McMorrow wonders why, and wonders why the local police don't wonder more.
First-novelist Boyle deftly transplants a big-city noir atmosphere to the western Maine mill town of Androscoggin, where the discovery of a freelance photographer's body floating in the canal leads newspaper editor Jack McMorrow into a series of intrigues. Stumbling onto a scandal and cover-up, he is threatened by a temporarily insane woman, kidnapped, beaten and very nearly murdered himself. McMorrow is an outsider--he took over editorship of the weekly Androscoggin Review after stints at the New York Times and other papers--and his first-person narrative exudes the cynicism of an achiever laid low by hubris, striking just the right note for his story. The author, himself an award-winning columnist, uses his insider's knowledge of the newspaper business to give his plot plenty of texture; he also delivers realistic characterizations, diverting subplots and evocative descriptions of rural Maine. Turning what could have been a contrived ending into a powerful, scary denouement, Boyle shocks readers into the recognition that life, in all of its subtlety, will constantly contradict itself. A fine debut; one hopes to see more of McMorrow.