Sunday, July 26, 2020
Kevin Myers' new novel, Hidden Falls, follows protagonist Michael Quinn back to Massachusetts following the unexpected death of his father. Middle-aged, single, in a strained relationship with his own kid, and at the peak of a dead-end job in print journalism, Michael is on the brink of a classic mid-life crisis. What he gets instead is a real-life crisis when he discovers his father was involved with organized crime and Michael lands in the middle of a criminal conspiracy.
Although it starts with a bang, literally, the first chapter is just a teaser, before the story starts for real "a few weeks before." Then the first quarter of the book is about Michael's workaday life in Portland. He's a columnist for the Portland Daily newspaper, waiting to be downsized out of a job in the next round of layoffs. He's divorced, with a son just starting college, and is trying to navigate the stormy waters of middle-aged dating. One amusing subplot has Michael following the "Missed Connections" listings on Craigslist, convinced a younger co-worker is flirting with him.
Michael carries his everyday concerns with him to New Bedford when he returns for his father's funeral. These concerns don't go away – especially when his ex-wife, son, and potential girlfriend show up for the funeral – but Michael's perception changes as he falls deeper into the realities of his family's life in New Bedford. Those realities are exciting enough, with gamblers, gangsters, and crooked cops to spare. Tensions are high, tempers run hot, and Michael is right in the middle of it. It's a good yarn.
Meyers chose his setting well. New Bedford, with its whaling history, is the archetype of a certain kind of New England town, once great centers of now dead American industries. Meyers explores what is like to grow up in a town like New Bedford, with the pride shown for a heritage long past, a fierce connection to professional and amateur sports, and a hometown bond that is not easy to explain. He has an ear for the accent and an eye for the mores that bring New Bedford to life for the reader.
Meyers tells Michael's story with subtle humor and a big heart. Don't expect an edge of your seat, blood and guts thriller. But if you like a good story, well told, Hidden Falls is the book for you. It's got humor, romance, family drama, and enough crime to make it exciting.
I'd recommend Hidden Falls for fans of Richard Russo, Jim Harrison, and Dennis Lehane, and anyone who likes a good midlife crisis story, father/son story, stories set in New England, or just something new.
Read my interview of Kevin Meyers here on Rose City Reader.