A British screenwriter relocates to New England and becomes embroiled in small-town life in this novel.
Bill, a British writer, his wife, Catherine, and his son, Daniel, are living in France when opportunity comes knocking. Bill gets an offer to script an American TV series and double his current salary. He uproots his wife and son, installing them in a postwar timber house in the backwater town of Broadacre in New England, where he feels he will find all the tranquility he needs to focus on his craft. From his very arrival, the town appears to have other ideas. No sooner has the family stepped through the front door of its new home than it is disturbed by new neighbors coming by to introduce themselves and invite the clan to a party. Mary-Lou, the family discovers, is an overly flirtatious lawyer, and her husband Tom’s a broad-shouldered, lascivious builder. Soon Bill and Catherine find themselves caught in the unnecessary tangles of a small-town existence. They discover that there is a dispute regarding a shed built on their land. Their house is coveted. A property developer’s covert plan to build a working model village threatens the status quo. And what are all the mysterious goings on in the cemetery? And then come the murders. This book is intriguing, embellished by Crutchley’s (The Black Carriage, 2015) admirably quirky descriptive style: “The falling sun is painting the landscape as routinely as people go to church, as they dance in strange straight lines, obey their absurd speed limits, and as the weather is guaranteed to fall apart straight after Labor Day.” The charming work’s one flaw is that it takes on an ambitiously long list of characters, including crooks, state troopers, priests, and rabbis, which the author struggles to handle. It is not uncommon for a reader to have to backtrack to ascertain who is who and who does what. This is because Crutchley fails to draw sufficiently distinct portraits, to the extent that they become an anodyne blur. It is then necessary to reread passages to distinguish, among others, Tom the builder from Josh the “nose straightener.” But this minor confusion distracts little from an engaging and thoughtfully conceived plot.
A family deals with a sleepy Northern town’s secrets in this enjoyably energetic romp.