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Mission Flats Hardcover – August 26, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 333 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forced by circumstances to become a small-town cop, the protagonist of former Boston district attorney Landay's inventive, gripping suspense debut finds himself embroiled in a big-city murder investigation. Ben Truman, the young police chief in the Maine town of Versailles (pronounced "Ver-sales"), tells us early on that he gave up his pursuit of a doctorate in history at Boston University to come home and care for his Alzheimer's-stricken mother. What he doesn't reveal-at least right away-is the true story of his mother's death and his father's alcoholic rages. Landay deals out pertinent details with the finesse of a poker player, first describing Ben's discovery of the bloated body of a Boston assistant district attorney in a rental cabin. Is the discovery really accidental? Is the almost immediate arrival on the scene of a retired Boston cop named John Kelly as fortuitous as it seems at first? Can Ben really be as much of a small-town hick (the Boston cops call him "Opie") as he appears to be? Determined to stay on the case, Ben joins a crew of big-city cops and prosecutors (including Kelly's intriguing daughter) in a search through the blighted (fictional) Boston neighborhood of Mission Flats for the answer to the ADA's murder and a 10-year-old mystery. As bits of his personal history surface, Ben occasionally seems in danger of violating one of the rules of crime fiction-that the narrator shouldn't lie to us about his role in the story. But Landay's book is such a rich, harrowing and delightful read that few will complain.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Landay uses the slow-paced, elegiac voice of his narrator to lull the reader into the false notion that this is a straightforward mystery starring a somewhat bumbling investigator; in fact, every assumption the reader makes turns into a landmine, which makes for an excruciatingly suspenseful thriller. Former District Attorney Landay sets his accomplished first novel in two places: backwoods Maine, where a way-too-young police chief encounters his first major homicide, and Boston, where the same police chief tries to navigate the shoals of the Boston police and court system. Chief Truman, the narrator, stumbles upon the body of a Boston D.A. in a lakeside cabin. The Boston PD muscles him out of the case, but Truman, undeterred by the all-but-certain knowledge that the murder belongs to the controlling gang in the toughest Boston neighborhood, putzes around on his own. Truman is aided by a retired Boston cop who teaches him fascinating things about motives, blood-spatter patterns, and staged crime scenes. Landay gives us an original detective creation in the humorous, self-deprecating Truman, and he also delivers an action-packed plot with a skillfully detonated final surprise. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336147
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (333 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always like to be surprised by a debut novel, and when it is a mystery novel, all the better. Mission Flats begins twenty years ago when a cop is murdered in a bar, and his killer commits suicide by jumping off the Tobin Bridge in Boston. Then we go to Versailles, Maine, to the murder of a Boston district attorney, found by Ben Truman, police captain a town where not too much happens. Back and forth to Maine and Boston, until we slowly learn how and why so many characters are linked. The ending was a knock-out surprise, and well done by the author. The mysteries and secrets in this book are exquisite for a debut novel, and you will not be able to rest until you know them all. The mark of a good book for me is that I thought about the characters for hours after I finished the book, and as a voracious reader I was not ready to start a new book until I could let them go.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed MISSION FLATS, but I don't think it lives up to the largely ecstatic reviews it has received.

The first 100 pages of this novel are indeed superb. This novel begins by detailing the everyday life of a young, inexperienced police chief of a small town in Maine. A murder takes place, and the state police swoop in, quickly relegating the police chief to the sidelines. The first 100 pages are a brilliant character study about the police chief's life in this small town, and I really enjoyed them.

Unfortunately, after the first 100 pages, Landay takes MISSION FLATS into a very different direction. The small-town police chief travels to the big city of Boston, and begins investigating the murder on his own. At this point, the plot begins to spin out of control and loses all credibility. Our young hero suddenly becomes a brilliant cop, beds the DA on the case, runs into key witnesses by coincidence, exposes a long-dormant conspiracy, and so on. None of these events develop naturally or believably.

There is an effective twist at the end of MISSION FLATS, but it is based on the narrator deceiving the reader, which really isn't playing fair. The deception does leave something of a bad taste in the reader's mouth. Still, I found the ending a true shocker, and I admire Landay's courage in coming up with an unconventional resolution to the story.

Overall, MISSION FLATS is a good book, but I can't recommend it with enthusiasm, largely due to the plot weaknesses I outlined above.
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Format: Hardcover
I was about a third of the way through MISSION FLATS when I put the book down and picked up the phone. I started calling friends in town, then emailed a few more scattered here and there across the country and around the world, telling them that I was in the middle of a new novel that, in my opinion, would be this year's PRESUMED INNOCENT or A SIMPLE PLAN --- one of those novels that seems to spring from out of nowhere into the national consciousness. More than one friend asked how I could know that before finishing the book; I couldn't answer them. I just knew when I reached page 100 that MISSION FLATS was going somewhere special.
William Landay is a former district attorney and undoubtedly there are a couple of his former colleagues who form the template for at least one of the characters in MISSION FLATS. The main focus of the story is Ben Truman, who at the age of 24 finds himself walking unsteadily in the shoes of his father, Claude. Ben is the police chief of Versailles --- pronounced Ver-Sales, as we quickly find out, a municipality that is more than a hamlet but less than a village in rural Maine. He inherited the job from his father, a bear of a man who people still refer to as The Chief. Ben never wanted the job and never even wanted to be a policeman. He was content with his graduate studies in Boston until family circumstances called him home. He is stuck in the ennui of his surroundings, his job, and a relationship where the emphasis is on "physical fulfillment" until the discovery of a body in a summer cabin changes everything.
The body belongs to Robert M. Danziger, Assistant District Attorney of Sussex County. Danziger is the victim of foul play and there is an immediate suspect: Harold Braxton, a Boston gang leader heavily involved in drug dealing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed William Landay's "Defending Jacob" so much that I had to immediately find and read _anything_ written by him. "Mission Flats" did not disappoint. Although not as well known as "Defending Jacob," I feel that this book is actually better: there are more characters, more action, more twists and turns, and a totally shattering surprise at the end.

I'm usually pretty good at figuring out "who done it" in mystery stories - not this time though. It was a total treat to be so wrong about where the story was going and to feel so shocked to realize that I had not known the characters at all until the end.

If you're bored with predictable mysteries you absolutely must read this one.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't give out 5 stars very often, but this book deserves it. What a wonderful piece. The characters made this book. They were interesting, well rounded, and believable. The main character continued to grow and develop throughout the whole book, I found myself forgetting that he was only the author's creation. The best part of the book was the ending. I was very surprised and after reading it, I went back and reread parts again. I am excited that I found a new author and I plan on reading all of his novels.
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