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At Sea.

Peter Blue, Toby Olson's candidate for shamus of the year, is not Peter Gunn. For one thing he's married and for another he's much too contemporary. His beat, Provincetown, is not L.A., Frisco, or Vegas though it resembles Key West in a number of ways - land's end hangout, hideout, retreat, tourist trap, fisherman's domain, nature-lover's habitat, homosexual and homophobic mecca for weary city folks down there on a visit. And, oh yes, there are the drugs, always the drugs. Peter Blue, a veteran cop, is an undercover narcotics agent who takes the measure of the town both in and out of season: locals, Portuguese and Yankee, conservationists and land-rich entrepreneurs, gay communities male and female, plus the tourists, day-trippers, weekenders, summer people. The reader is thrust into this mix of summer folk just as Peter is investigating a nasty rape and preparing for a drug bust. His marriage to Sara is about to end, the drug bust will go wrong with Peter having to kill a popular local, and the rape will end in a repeat rape and brutal murder of the victim. At the heart of Beth Charters's rape and murder is a moral and sexual code that has been violated almost as brutally as she has. Adultery, casual sex, homosexuals, heterosexuals, "straights" who are closet homosexuals, homosexuals who are "straight" when it suits them.

A mystery as well as a psychological novel, At Sea concentrates on Peter Blue at the center of things: the husband losing his wife, the detective attracted to the rape victim even after her savage murder, the man in search for so many answers as he wanders through the gay bars that make up the soft underbelly of Provincetown, the dunes of the National Seashore, the Atlantic itself. Toby Olson's blending of the natural and the unnatural-think of Conrad's landscapes and seascapes and Farewell My Lovely - lifts At Sea above mere murder, horrible as it seems.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Byrne, Jack
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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