Granite Harbor
May 20, 2024
Book Review

Granite Harbor

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Peter Nichols, novelist and journalist, hones his skills with a dark and grisly mystery-thriller. The “big bad wolf” serial killer preys upon the small town of Granite Harbor, a previously sleepy and quaint town in coastal Maine. His ritualistic murders shock the sensibilities of this backwater community.

The scene is set in the twilight of evening, with three obvious boyhood friends casually skateboarding through the serene streets of Granite Harbor. One of the boys, Shane, veers off, homeward bound. Unfortunately, there is an unseen driver of a pickup truck that follows him. The reader is treated to a taste of the driver’s inner demons as multiple psychic visions invade his mind. Shane is later found desecrated on the grounds of the Living History Settlement, a local resurrected archaeological site where a few of the townspeople work as historic re-enactors.

He is found strung up in a door-like frame with a single surgical slit down the center of his body. The crime scene investigators will find no other clues as evidence, other than the sudden emergence of a toad from the wound. Although told through many points of view of the colorful cast of community characters, the main focus is Alex Brangwen. He is a failed novelist with two successful books to his credit and a failure to launch his third. He is an ex-pat from Manchester, England, whisked away to Maine by his then-pregnant wife, Morgana.

Ultimately, his marriage fails, and he finds himself a single parent struggling to accept a failed career as a novelist. After taking a job in the local police department, he is soon made the town’s sole detective. The Chief has every confidence in him; after all, “a writer is similar to a detective.” This is Alex’s first murder case, and the town looks to him for immediate resolution.

His daughter Sophie was one of Shane’s closest friends, along with Jared and Ethan. When Jared goes missing and is found murdered in the same gruesome manner, the town is thrown into a hysterical frenzy. Along the way, we will learn of the anxieties and secrets of many of the town’s locals. The reader is privy to the unnamed killer’s viewpoint, background, and motivations through multiple intervening chapters. Prepare to be creeped out by these weird circumstances.

Nichols weaves together multiple viewpoints with escalating intrigue and suspense. His narrative is dark, grisly, and cinematic. Infused in the plot are themes: the struggles of teen parenting; dealing with failed careers; second chances; and struggles of everyday life.

I personally found myself alternating between my Kindle and the audio version, narrated by Peter Ganim. An accomplished actor in both classic and contemporary forms, Ganim has a rich baritone voice that he can frequently modulate to lend itself to various characters in an extremely engaging fashion. This story will appeal to aficionados of both detective and serial killer novels. To me, this was pleasantly reminiscent of the HBO series Mare of Easttown.

Thanks to NetGalley, Celadon Books, and Macmillan Audio for supplying an Uncorrected Proof and Advance Audio version of this wonderful novel, in exchange for an honest review

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