SILVER SPRING, Md, July 30, 2014 – Jonas Hawke is a retired lawyer in the small New England town of Beacon Junction. He spends his days in the bed and breakfast he owns reading the classics, smoking his pipe and keeping to himself. Haunted by the sudden and premature death of his oldest son and his descent into and recovery from alcoholism, Jonas is a brooding man with very few true friends any longer. When his former business partner, ten years his junior, dies suddenly after a routine medical procedure, Jonas realizes how much he has isolated himself since his glory days in the courtroom.
At the same time Jonas is having his epiphany about the melancholy state of his golden years, Mary Louise, the bed and breakfast cook and resident call girl, gets hooked into a dilemma courtesy of one of her clients. Harrison Pharmaceuticals, the town’s largest employer, seems to be covering up a faulty medical device that may be killing people.
The ensuing back and forth with the pharmaceutical company draws Jonas in as confidant and eventually, legal counsel. The course of event dredges up old, painful memories and details of his last great trial. Both of which are things he wished to forget. While the concerns of her client are laid to rest, Mary Louise draws a line in the sand deciding to take a moral stand for what she feels is right.
Hawke’s Point is author Mark Willen’s debut novel. Having had short stories published in literary journals like The Rusty Nail and The Boiler Review, Willen uses the same storytelling skills to craft a longer tale. While a synopsis of this book might make one think it is part legal thriller part medical drama, the reality is it is a literary novel whose focus is more on the relationships of its characters than the plot devices used to generate conflict.
While there are those commercial elements of legal thriller, Willen has turned his back on Hollywood style bestsellers, and instead chosen to dig into the people of his town, Beacon Junction. A reader expecting a courtroom drama with short chapters to keep the pages flying past, will instead spend time with a retired lawyer who gets his interest piqued just enough to dust off the brief case, but otherwise relishes his glory days.
Jonas Hawke is not a Grisham-style character, and thankfully so. Readers are treated to a quiet, but complex man with serious demons and the way he is trying to rectify what he sees as lost years.
Written in a third person point-of-view, we get inside the heads of many characters in the story. Some are stronger and better crafted than others. As the main character, Jonas Hawke is the most relatable and developed. Mostly, the characters seem like they could be real people in your neighborhood that you know only by acquaintance. A very small number of supporting characters have moments where they feel two-dimensional, but they have a place in the novel, and the overall story moves forward without suffering too greatly.
Willen’s women are convincing, although at times they are a little too archetypical. Jonas’s wife has moments where she leaps off the page, but others where she feels like she’s just checking a box, and daughter Sally is never very developed. Mary Louise has scenes where she is clearly drawn, but in his attempt to avoid certain working girl stereotypes, Willen falls into others.
Overall, Willen’s debut is worth a read. Hawke’s Point is a well-paced character study that ties up nicely and leaves no loose ends. The stakes are never raised to a point where the blockbuster courtroom battle is inevitable, and that leaves the reader with the ability to see how people react when left in the grey. Some see black, some see white, some teeter back and forth as they walk the line, and others just want to do what’s right with no idea what that actually is.
Hawke’s Point by Mark Willen was published on July 22, 2014 by Pen-L Books. It will be available as a paperback or ebook.