I became a die-hard fan of William Landay after reading his third novel entitled Defending Jacob. I was curious to compare that work with his first novelm which he calls Mission Flats.
In both of these fiction pieces, Landay uses the narrator’s voice in the first person, which gives a very personal touch to everything he says. Landay was an assistant district attorney before he took up writing full-time. Therefore, it is easy to understand his interest in law, in court trials, in murder, and in police officers.
Mission Flats is a fictional district near Boston, Massachusetts, invented by Landay who is a Bostonian himself, familiar with the attitudes and culture of the citizens of that area. Mission Flats is an impoverished part of town, where crime and drug abuse is rampant.
The narrator is Ben Truman, the Chief of Police of another fictional sleepy town called Versailles, Maine, where he has just discovered the body of a prominent district attorney in Boston, Robert Danziger, apparently on vacation in a wooded cabin in Versailles.
Thus begins the odyssey of Ben Truman, which takes him on a quest that uncovers police corruption, murder, drug lords, informants, all topics which are not always household words to the average citizen.
Ben’s father, Claude Truman, is the retired Police Chief of Versailles, whose son inherited the position because, as Ben explained, no one else really wanted the job. Claude spends some time at the jail house since he has nothing better to do, especially because his wife, Ben’s mother, died recently after a bout with Alzheimer’s disease.
The integrity of the Truman men has never been in question. So it is a shock when the D.A.’s office in Boston takes a long look at Ben and decides he may have had something to do with the death of Robert Danziger in Versailles. This compels Ben to follow every lead concerning Danziger as well as the police authorities in Boston who had any connection with the murdered D.A.
The cops had also fingered a known criminal, named Harold Braxton, whose reputation ran from murderer to friend and informant of the Boston Police Department. It appeared that he was being protected by higher authorities who needed his help or knew too much about shady deals in the department.
William Landay loves surprise endings. This was his first attempt at such a stratagem; he followed it up skillfully in his magnificent opus, Defending Jacob, also.
Ordinarily, I am not a fan of murder mysteries, but William Landay is an up-and-coming master of the genre, and I cannot help but want to follow his career closely, as I am certain he will be a household name within a short time. I am already in possession of William Landay’s second novel, entitled The Strangler, which uses the infamous Boston Strangler spectacle as its backdrop.
Mission Flats by William Landay (2003)