Kirkus Review – Vacationland

A Maine lobsterman endures a barrage of threats and sabotage from various people before finally seeking retribution in Goodale’s debut thriller.

Donny Coombs has enough trouble keeping his lobster boat, Pot Luck, above water with the recession and rising fuel costs. But he also must contend with affluent neighbors insisting he beautify his property, another lobsterman elbowing his way into his fishing spots and a father demanding that Donny stop dating his daughter, Shelly. Vague warnings soon turn to vandalism: Someone dumps sugar in his truck’s gas tank and tampers with his boat’s fuel line. As the threats increase and become deadlier, Donny looks for payback. The novel is well-paced; the first sign of problems to come is an innocent visit from new neighbor Del Nelson, asking Donny to clean his front lawn. But while Donny can shrug off Shelly’s father telling him to dump his college-age daughter and deliver a message to obtrusive lobsterman Stanley by cutting the man’s traps loose, he can’t ignore someone poisoning his oak tree or sending his boat adrift. Anticipation heightens as things sour for Donny, especially when someone shoots at him. It’s even more unsettling that the suspect pool, which also includes Del’s abrasive wife, Eliza, is so extensive. Donny can’t be sure who exactly is responsible for each damaging or potentially lethal act. A stellar protagonist who doesn’t back down easily, Donny isn’t above directly confronting Stanley, who, intentionally or not, may have tried to kill him. But the lobsterman earns the most points for the way he treats Tut, his dog. There’s a correlation between the two: Donny the local goes after the rich girl, while Tut has his eyes set on the Nelsons’ poodle; Donny mangles Stanley’s traps to reestablish his territory, while Tut marks his territory throughout the story; and Tut growls at nearly everyone, paralleling Donny’s gruff exterior. It’s a subtly comical link, but the association also underscores in Donny some of Tut’s best traits: loyalty, confidence and, yes, even doggedness.

So understated that readers won’t know they’re reading a thriller until they’re already fully immersed.

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