When fisherman Conrad Labarde finds the body of Lillian Wallace in his nets, her death seems accidental. East Hampton policeman Tom Hollis and Labarde separately begin looking closely at the details of the case and soon find themselves working together to prove that Lillian has been murdered and to find her killer.
The investigation is complicated because Hollis is a disgraced former Manhattan detective who must prove his worthiness, especially to himself, and because Labarde considers himself a jinx, having contributed to his older brother’s drowning years before and having seen most of his friends killed in combat during World War II. He blames himself for Lillian’s death because they were having an affair, a relationship known only to one other person. The powerful Wallace family, especially Lillian’s brother Manfred, a would-be politician, hold people like Hollis and Labarde in disdain and refuse to believe her death was not an accident. The plot begins to come together when the protagonists connect Lillian’s death to an earlier unsolved killing.
With his first novel, Mark Mills combines a compelling, well written mystery with a close examination of the sociology, history, and natural history of Long Island during the period immediately following World War II. The details of the daily lives of fishermen add considerable verisimilitude. The several flashbacks include a graphic picture of the combat horrors experienced by Labarde. Mills reveals the murderer well before the end of the novel but creates considerable suspense as a surprising trap is laid to catch the culprit.