The death of a fisherman off the wintry coast of Maine sparks a deadly feud in this debut novel.
In a remote area near the Bay of Fundy, Nicolas Graves and his partner, Osmond Randolph, have a fight over the future of their lobstering business. When Nicolas falls overboard, Osmond turns his boat around and leaves him to drown. Osmond, a former minister, has no qualms about presiding at Nicolas’ empty-coffin funeral and then immediately setting traps on his old partner’s hunting ground. Without a thought for the consequences, Nicolas’ younger son, known as Jonah, cuts the traplines to warn Osmond off the family territory and costs his father’s old partner thousands in lost stock and equipment. Osmond, desperate to support his three grandchildren, wants to partner with a slick salesman from Boston who covets the lobsters stored in the saltwater pound Nicolas built. But Jonah and his older brother Bill don’t want to sell out to big corporations, as so many of the other local fishermen have had to do. To their shock, they discover that their father left no will and that Osmond is the sole owner of the business. A grisly reminder of their father’s death makes Jonah and Bill even more suspicious of Osmond. Woman trouble, rivalry between the brothers and a trapping war up the ante even more in a tale that vividly portrays a bleak land, a cruel sea, the unexpected beauty of the blueberry barrens and a dark side of Downeast Maine that tourist brochures rarely show.
In a style as unadorned as the characters he creates, Keller builds suspense slowly but inexorably—not so much about the victim’s death as about what will happen when his fiercely independent sons find out how he died.