A small-town journalist digs into an old assault case, in which the mayor’s improper conduct may prove detrimental to her gubernatorial run, in this third installment of a series.
Reporter/editor Nathan Hawke may have something juicy for the Weekly Clarion, the Vermont newspaper he manages. An anonymous caller tells him that nine years ago Mayor Martha Bennett convinced two witnesses not to testify against an assailant in custody. The attacker was (allegedly) Garth Egan, whom cops recently arrested for rape and murder. As the source won’t even tell Nathan the victim’s name from the older case, the reporter turns to Egan’s defense lawyer back then: the journalist’s now-retired father, Jonas. But Jonas maintains his vow of confidentiality, which includes not disclosing the identities of the victim or her brother, the witness who stopped the attack. Nathan wants something more substantial before confronting Bennett, whose bid for governor and the upcoming election will likely keep her mum. As Nathan searches for the siblings, Jonas’ uncertainty over helping his son is compounded by the fact that an attorney from his old firm is representing Egan in the murder trial. Nathan knows his potential story could affect the election’s outcome—and also hurt a few people along the way. Though a reporter investigating political deceit has all the makings of a mystery, Willen (Hawke’s Return, 2017, etc.) zeros in on the characters. Melodrama reigns: Jonas and his friend Mary Louise, a live-in cook/former prostitute, care for young Max while the boy’s father, Dylan Walker, works as Bennett’s press secretary. Relationships are complicated and some characters are flawed; Jonas, who lost his wife and a son, has battled alcoholism. But even if Nathan’s investigation spawns few surprises, characters traverse a dense and intriguing morally gray area. Nathan, for example, tries changing the mind of someone who doesn’t want the case dredged up again. Nevertheless, characters sharing so many qualities results in some redundancies: pregnancies, widowers whose wives succumbed to cancer, and quite a number of extramarital affairs.
An unhurried tale that makes its enthralling characters the biggest mystery of all.