Novelist Deacon Kane is haunted by the death of his son by drowning four years ago, and his reputation has slid in the college where he teaches creative writing and English lit, slid to a point where everyone's watching him to see if he makes it to class, which he rarely does any more. His boss, Dolan, really has it in for him. Just one thing seems to amuse Deacon Kane, his affair with a married woman, Meg, a painter with a huge house on top of Peconic Bay, who hustles him out of her bed whenever she thinks her husband might arrive, but otherwise she seems totally uncaring and absent. It isn't a good relationship, but hey, any port in a storm especially if you're a human wreck.
Meanwhile someone is running around abducting male students (18, 19 years of age) and somehow managing to drown them in a way that leaves forensics baffled. Could these deaths be accidental?
Possible Spoilers Ahead--Minor:
The police are beginning to believe that Dunk is behind them. Maybe he's gone right off the deep end. Maybe he's a serial killer with a sexual kink that forces him to re-play the tragedy of his son's drowning by casting older boys in his young son's role as victim. His frequent blackouts leave him without an alibi.
Daniel Judson embodies this mystery within a David Lynch atmosphere of conspiracy, cover-up, immoral doings, and a mysterious giant black man who seems to be watching out for Dunk--or is he trying to kill him? Judson is great at atmosphere, and Eastern Long Island has never been portrayed more creepily.
What I didn't like was the absurd plot, which depends on an extraordinary amount of coincidence. On the one hand there is a criminal mastermind with far too many helpers; on the other hand, there's a good bunch of people whose motivations are just as murky as the killers. I never cared once for Duncan Kane, and on top of everything else Judson really makes women look like monsters. That's his prerogative of course, and it does add to the noir-ish feel of his book, but by the end we all have a different idea of what he imagines the "darkest place" to actually be.
Finally, when the mask is torn off the face of the killer, and the reader can't remember who he is, you're in trouble.
Otherwise a grand read by one of the genre's best technicians.