From Publishers Weekly
Robinson's atmospheric and dreary first novel (after story collection Officer Friendly
) revolves around a man gone missing in a blizzard. Bennie, a 20-something college dropout, scratches out a middling existence in rural Maine and lives with his taciturn brother, Littlefield, in their family's rotting mansion. The brothers don't have much going for them, and things get worse after a mishap during a paintball game. During the match, played during a blizzard, Bennie falls into a gorge and badly hurts himself, and a drifter member of the opposing team disappears. His body isn't recovered, and nobody's sure if he just picked up and left town or was murdered. But Littlefield and Bennie's friend Julian both call attention to themselves by behaving strangely, and when Bennie's twin sister, Gwen, comes back for a visit, she and Helen, a young woman working for Julian who catches Bennie's eye, help Bennie ferret out the truth about the missing man. Though the labored shifts between past and present detract from the narrative's understated power, Robinson does a magnificent job of painting a bleak and vivid picture of a rough-hewn community and the bonds that hold it together. (Jan.)
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Bennie Littlefield is basically drifting through life as he nears the age of 27, working part-time at an animal hospital and trying to repair his family home on Meadow Island, Maine, where he lives with his older brother, William Jr., who’s known simply as “Littlefield.” Having been trained in the biathlon by his late father, Bennie relishes paintball competitions, and during one of these games in the midst of a snowstorm, his life takes a turn. Bennie, trying to evade opposition shooters, is injured when he falls into a quarry, and a competitor, Ray LaBrecque, goes missing. Police investigating the disappearance focus on Littlefield because of his longtime interest in LaBrecque’s girlfriend, while Bennie seeks proof of his brother’s innocence. Unfortunately, it’s hard to care much about the characters in Water Dogs (which the Meadow Islanders call themselves), and the book’s narrative is annoyingly detailed and meandering, lacking the edge and tighter prose of his collection Officer Friendly and Other Stories (2003). A somewhat disappointing debut from a promising writer. --Michele Leber