MESSING WITH MEN

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Rasa Island, a small, seasonal destination off the coast of Florida, is home to no more than 10,000 residents, including a group of three friends who meet regularly at Tib’s, a popular watering hole. Ali Green is a thriving businessman worth millions, but he still isn’t his mother’s favorite son. Landon Greer is a retired English professor and obscure poet who never married or had children. And Sam Bishop was once a successful builder, but his wife bilked him of all his money, and he now sleeps with lonely women on the island willing to pay for his attention. Ali sees a business opportunity and seizes it—he buys the Larkin house, the oldest structure on the island, and intends to demolish it. But Sam, a member of the island’s preservation committee, has every intention of thwarting Ali’s plans. With Landon’s help, Sam buries a human skeleton on the property, hoping to have the house designated a historic landmark, a hoax that could land him in jail. Meanwhile, Landon starts a romance with Hannah Hill, a local lawyer who draws up his will, a relationship that unearths an unhappy trauma from his past, a dark personal history that Brookhouse slowly unfurls with great intelligence and restraint. In spare prose and choppy, matter-of-fact dialogue, the author paints an often grim but not hopeless picture of disappointment and its ramifications. The depiction of the eccentric island itself is a delightful highlight; a peculiar criminal nicknamed the Phantom Martha breaks into homes, rearranging them and stealing from one to redecorate another. The plot becomes a bit convoluted, and coincidences are invented wantonly, but this remains a bewitching tale, deliciously subtle and passionately profound.

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