Leah Greenblatt
June 20, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Arsonist

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Sue Miller
publisher
Knopf
genre
Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a B+

When the first house burns down in the middle of the night in the sleepy New Hampshire hamlet of Pomeroy, it seems like an unfortunate accident. When two more go up in flames within the week, it’s clear where The Arsonist gets its title. Miller (The Senator’s Wife) is expert at detailing the charms and vagaries of small-town life: the dynamic between fussy, fancy ”summer people” and saltier year-round residents; the fact that nobody’s business goes unnoted. But her main focus is Frankie, a foreign-aid worker who returns to her childhood summer home from Nairobi the same night the fires start. Frankie’s ambivalence about her life path, her struggle with her aging parents, and her romance with the town’s newsman are evocatively told. But her inner world, like the true identity of the arsonist, remains just out of reach. B+

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