Alex Rourke has a good gig. A former FBI agent, he lives in Boston where he plies his skills in a private investigation firm run by another ex-Bureau type. So when the sheriff up in Winter’s End, Maine, calls, he assumes it’s just an old friend looking for some extra help. Winter’s End is Rourke’s hometown.
The problem is a man who was found standing over a naked body in the road with two knives in his hands. He has no record, no fingerprints on file, and refuses to give his real name. Then he seems to know an awful lot about Rourke. Somehow, this is a personal case, the worst kind for an agent, a cop, or even a PI to have. But the John Doe in custody has an agenda. And as Rourke pulls more and more loose threads, he finds the case circling back to him at every turn.
Rickards, an English writer, has a few hiccups writing an American character first person early on. There’s an occasional word choice that doesn’t ring right. But about 1/3 of the way in, he hits his rhythm. The Maine Rickards creates is not quite Stephen King’s Maine, though Winter’s End and Castle Rock are clearly in the same region. There is a all-present logging industry leaving its fingerprint on the area, and a sort of isolation peculiar to the land between southern Maine and the St. Lawrence River up in Canada, like a colder, wetter version of the Pacific Northwest.
The John Doe in custody could easily have veered off into Hannibal Lecter territory, but in the end, he’s not really that smart. He’s just patient and a bit angry. Rourke realizes the murder he was brought in to investigate is the latest event in a chain that began when Rourke was a child.