Orient, New York has long prided itself on its closed community of year-round citizens. Anyone else is viewed as an outsider no matter what their circumstances may be. The only exception is architect Paul Benchley, who was born and raised on the island, and so forgiven for leaving them behind to live most of the year in the big city.
But now Paul is back and he’s bringing a guest with him. A guest his neighbors aren’t anxious to welcome to Orient. The guest is Mills Chevern, an orphan and runaway Paul takes pity on and vows to help by removing him from the temptations and dangers of New York City. But Paul and Mills’s arrival coincide with the death of one of the village’s own. More crime and dead bodies follow and suspicion immediately turns to newcomer Mills, leaving the teen no choice but to prove his own innocence.
Bollen is incredibly long winded, something I thought was going to be a detriment to the book early on. Before long, however, I’d settled into the narrative and really started to enjoy myself.
The insular community of Orient is fabulously drawn with resident busybodies, gossip mongers, and the few “outsiders” like Paul, Mills, and Beth, an artist recently returned to Orient herself. As the plot unfolds, the politics of the town begin to have great influence on the various happenings and goings on, including multiple murders. Bollen does a fair job of keeping the identity of the true killer and their motive under wraps until the very end, though.
Orient is a doorstopper of a read, to be sure, but once the first hundred pages or so are behind and all of the characters are introduced it moves along at a great pace.
5/15 Becky LeJeune
ORIENT by Christopher Bollen. Harper (May 5, 2015). ISBN 978-0062329950. 624p.