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Mission Flats

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A law degree from Boston College and several years as a prosecutor have obviously prepared William Landay well for his career as a writer of crime novels. However, Mission Flats is much more than the straightforward police procedural it at first seems to be. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the novel is a psychological study of a good man faced with impossible choices.

When his mother was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, the narrator and protagonist of the novel, Ben Truman, left his doctoral studies and took a job as police chief of Versailles, Maine, planning to stay only as long as she needed him. Though she has since died, Ben is still in Versailles, for he now knows that his father is an alcoholic who was known for his violent rages even during his years as police chief. Since nothing much ever happens in Versailles, Ben is not worried about his lack of experience at crime-solving. Therefore it is a real shock when he discovers the corpse of a Boston public defender in a remote cabin.

Ben could have left the matter to the Massachusetts law enforcement experts who arrived to take over the case. Perhaps it is his pride that sends him off to the Boston slum called Mission Flats to conduct his own investigation. Fortunately, Ben has the help of John Kelly, a retired Boston cop; his daughter Caroline, a lawyer; and Martin Gittens, a policeman with a wealth of knowledge and an unsavory reputation. However, these new friends cannot prevent the past from catching up with Ben’s father and, in a shocking climax, with Ben himself. This action-packed, cunningly plotted novel will leave readers clamoring for more of the same.