High society meets homicide in the New Hampshire woods in Varney’s debut novel.
The narrative opens with Harry Warren, the chief judge for the small New Hampshire county where he lives, receiving a visit from an old lover in his office. Soon afterward, the woman is found murdered in the woods, but due to her penchant for secrecy and infelicitous affairs, Warren doesn’t find out for some time, giving him ample opportunity to deal with the ongoing charade that is his life. Having married far above his social station—a situation his in-laws never let him forget—as well as snagging a prestigious job for which he’s unqualified and possessing a military history more glorious in record than in deed, Warren constantly feels inadequate. However, this path through life hasn’t left him without certain skills, all of which he’ll need to protect himself as a web of deceit woven by his former paramour and others tightens around him. As a debut novel, Varney’s work is confident in its characterization and pace, taking time to build a world of privilege and expectation around its protagonist, who is neither as flawed nor as stealthy as he thinks. The thriller elements of the book, while well done in their pacing and logic, become virtually irrelevant to the story, a testament to the richness of character and dialogue Varney achieves here. The most striking success is the creation of Harry Warren, a flawed man whose complicated inner life spawns the numerous personas he presents to the other characters, complicating their portrayals and enhancing their interest to the reader in the process.
By combining the character focus of literary fiction with the plotting of the mystery genre, Varney creates a hybrid that will satisfy many fans of both genres.