WATER DOGS by Lewis Robinson

Book Quote:

“At the bottom of the basement stairs, Bennie grabbed a saber saw and a crowbar from Littlefield’s pegboard, and a pair of canvas gloves and a flashlight from the tool apron. Littlefield would have suggested poison—and he wouldn’t have allowed Bennie to use the saber saw—but Littlefield had gone out to the bar, which meant he was probably now sleeping in his Chevette. When Bennie returned to the living room, he knelt beside the baseboard, listened a final time, then cut a rough rectangle through the plaster. With the crowbar he pried back the lath. He aimed the flashlight into the hole. Eight or ten raccoon eyes looked up at him, little quivering noses pointed toward the light, black fur around the eyes, a stripe of white across the ears and snout. Tiny bandits with miniature claws. ”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Sudheer Apte (JUL 13, 2009)

Small-town Maine in the winter has a unique character, made famous by other authors like horror maestro Stephen King. In Water Dogs, Lewis Robinson’s first novel, Robinson gives us the chilly, overcast days of January and February. He also gives us a cast of young men and women in their twenties, and the drama of their relationships and intrigue. Mixed into the snow drifts is the mystery of a man who goes missing. The novel is difficult to put down.

The protagonist, Benjamin “Bennie” Littlefield, has slipped into a meager existence, with a part-time job at an animal clinic serving to just barely maintain his parents’ old, crumbling house. The house, which is referred to as “the Manse,” is shared by his older brother, who calls himself just Littlefield and makes a depressingly uncommunicative companion.

When the brothers are not whiling away their hours on cheap beer at a local bar, the highlight of their life is a paintball game they play with three other young men in a wooded quarry behind a paintball club. One fateful evening, they decide to continue their game past the legal time, in the middle of a nasty blizzard, and, of course, there is trouble. Bennie falls and breaks several bones, and another player goes missing. What follows is a deepening mystery about what exactly happened to the missing man and what role, if any, Littlefield played in it.

Bennie’s relationship with a young woman in the town, and the brothers’ relationships with their late father, their mother, and their sister, are all revealed in the wan winter light. The peculiar community that we see is as rugged as the unforgiving Maine landscape. They may be “hockey-playing, urchin-harvesting hard asses,” but their struggles to keep their bonds of love and family loyalty alive despite their disappointments and old wounds, makes them instantly understandable and universal.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 9 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House (January 13, 2009)
REVIEWER: Sudheer Apte
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Lewis Robinson
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Similar “small town” fiction:

The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris

The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins (another good “cold, snow” novel.)

Empire Falls by Richard Russo (also set in Maine)

The Echo Makers by Richard Powers


July 13, 2009 · Judi Clark · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Drift-of-Life, Literary, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, y Award Winning Author

2 Responses

  1. poornima - July 13, 2009

    Water Dogs is a fantastic read–definitely one of my best reads for the year. I worry that not many people will read it (a real pity) since it doesn’t seem to have had much press.

    I loved your other “snow” book recommendations –can’t believe I have read them all. Another beauty set in blinding snow is “Last Night at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan.


  2. MFadmin - July 16, 2009

    Poornima! You are right! How could I have forgotten LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER by Stewart O’Nan. I loved that novel. I should re-read it and use it to cool down in this Tucson heat… it is an excellent small town “snow” novel. And, we still need a review of the book on MF… I better assign this to myself.

    I didn’t realize it when I put together the further recommendations, but I read them all too. All good reads :)

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