Sam Acquillo is at the end of the line. A middle-aged corporate dropout living in his dead parents ramshackle cottage in the Hamptons, Sam has abandoned his friends, family and a big-time career to sit on his porch, drink vodka and stare at the Little Peconic Bay. But when the old lady next door ends up floating dead in her bathtub it seems like Sam is the only one who wonders why. Burned-out, busted up and cynical, the ex-engineer, ex-professional boxer, ex-loving father and husband finds himself uncovering secrets no one could have imagined, least of all Sam himself. Meanwhile, a procession of quirky characters intrudes on Sam s misanthropic ways. A beautiful banker, pot-smoking lawyer, bug-eyed fisherman and gay billionaire join a full complement of cops, thugs and local luminaries in this tale of money and murder.
Sam Acquillo, the hero of Knopf's arresting debut (a Book Sense notable selection for May), is the very epitome of the dropout. An ex-corporation man, divorced from his wife and estranged from his daughter, he lives in his parents' run-down cottage in Southampton, Long Island, and seems content to drink himself into oblivion. Then one day he finds the black and swollen body of his elderly neighbor, Regina Broadhurst, who has apparently drowned in her bathtub. Is it an accident or murder? And if it's the latter, will solving the mystery behind Regina's death enable Sam to pick up the pieces of his life and move on? While the promotional copy's likening the book to Camus's The Plague may be a stretch, there's a definite whiff of Elmore Leonard here, particularly in the snappy dialogue and the colorful, oddball characters, including a gay billionaire. Knopf's effortless narrative style and sense of humor bode well for the further adventures of Sam Acquillo. Correction: Beth Saulnier's The Fourth Wall (Forecasts, Mar. 28) is the author's third Alex Bernier mystery and was first published in paperback in 2001.