300 pages — $14.97
by Mark Willen
Praise for Hawke's Point
First, I should note that I won this book in the Giveaway. Second, I understand that this is the
Author's first published novel. Disclaimers aside, I must state that I would have gladly purchased
this book and I eagerly await Mr. Willen's next work.
Hawke's Point explores timely moral themes in a small Vermont town. While the main characters, namely
Jonas, Emma, and Mary Louise, strike a familiar chord, don't assume they're always predictable. Willen
loves complication; his story lines, human dynamics, and characters reverberate within layers.
Mr. Willen develops the story gradually, complete with twists (and a couple of knots) and ethical
questions. Along the journey, he introduces each character as though he or she is a neighbor or co-worker.
The main character, Jonas, is a wonderful combination of intelligence, sadness, trustworthiness, loyalty,
and regret. He leads the reader through a set of circumstances that demands confronting the past while
charging into the future.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hawke's Point; Willen's initial work is worthy of recognition it will undoubtedly receive.
~ KC Smith, Goodreads Review
"Every town has its secrets and almost all hold such confidences close to the heart. It takes a
determined, resourceful storyteller to bring such tales to the surface and that's what Mark
Willen has done with his new novel set in the star-crossed town of Beacon Junction."
~ Tim Wendel, author of Red Rain, Habana Libre, and Summer of '68
"As Mark Willen explores life in a small Vermont community he addresses large themes: guilt,
forgiveness, familial loss, love, ethical dilemmas of many kinds. Vivid, complex characters
like Jonas Hawke, retired lawyer and repository of many of the community's secrets, engage
the reader and move the narrative along at an energetic pace. This is a novel so rich in
humanity and situation that the world of Hawke's Point will continue to beguile long after
the reader has turned the last page."
~ Margaret Meyers, author of Dislocation and Swimming in the Congo
A great read.
I didn't really know what to expect from this — it seemed to have elements of mystery, legal thriller,
and literary fiction, and I don't often read about protagonists in their 70s — but this turned out to
be something pretty rare: a thoughtful and thought-provoking literary novel with a genuinely interesting
and suspenseful plot.
The book has two main threads. In the first, Craig Whitney, a scientist working for a medical devices
company, has to decide whether to expose the company's cover-up of fatalities resulting from their new
heart stent. In the second, a stranger named Steven Delacourt appears in town to investigate the mysterious
circumstances of a courtroom drama twenty years before, in which his father was tried for the murder of his
(Steven's) grandfather. The ways these stories intertwine and illuminate each other is revealed in a gradual
and well-controlled buildup of suspense, but they both come to revolve around retired lawyer Jonas Hawke.
The story has a big cast — everyone in the small Vermont town of Beacon Junction is connected in interesting
and often unexpected ways — and the characters are multilayered and realistic, particularly Jonas Hawke and
the 30-something prostitute Mary Louise. And Willen is at his best when delivering spot-on insights into
grief and the grieving process, as well as the tangled nuances of legal and ethical dilemmas. It's amazing
that the ending manages to be satisfying on multiple levels when the conflicts in this book are so intricate
Although there are lots of really tense and dramatic issues at play here — an unsolved murder, blackmail, a
tragic car accident, a secret affair that destroys a family, a mishandled trial — the majority of the most
sensational moments happen in the past, before the story begins, and instead, it's the repercussions that
the story is mainly concerned with. The majority of the drama here occurs in well-constructed dialogue and
argument scenes, and in the many momentous and difficult decisions the characters have to make. Much of the
book takes place in only a few repeating locations — the porch of a bed-and-breakfast; the room of Mary
Louise, the high-priced prostitute; the executive offices of the medical devices corporation. But the story
works because you can feel the danger of a fraught and scandalous past constantly bubbling up underneath. I
think most of all this is a story about finally reckoning with one's mistakes.
The bottom-line is this. Don't read this expecting a murder mystery or a legal thriller; the suspense is much
subtler than that, and the questions the book is interested in are much less simplistic than who-done-it. But
if you're looking for a story that uses dramatic real-life problems and well-drawn characters to make you evaluate
and re-evaluate several fascinating contemporary ethical dilemmas and the limits and importance of the law,
then this book is for you.
~ Noah W., from his review on Goodreads
What a storyteller; I loved this and was caught right up in it. Quiet, "normal" community
with so much actually going on among a wide range of folks. Several lines rippled in
directions I hadn't anticipated, so that it became quite a page turner.
~ Constance Fullerton
Willen takes the reader to a sleepy New England town where a mix of ethical and legal problems
wake residents to a new era. Thankfully the story moves quickly between plot and sub-plots with
no finger-waving hints of preaching. Readers of all ages can engage with the retirees or
corporate professionals or young adults who struggle on these pages to define themselves. Their
stories read so true that I found it diffiult to remember they are fictional. In fact, I am
going to look up Hawke's Point on the map. The ending undoubtedly will lead to endless book
~ Diane E. Booth
Jonas Hawke is a retired lawyer, a recovering alcoholic, and a mourner for his ex-partner who has
recently died from medical complications. Reclusive, Jonas is attempting to learn from his past and
begin comforting and helping people again, but when a stranger arrives in town and revives the
conspiracy around an old murder trial, the errors of Jonas’ past return with a vengeance, and he is
once again reminded of the ethical lapse that effectively ended his career.
Meanwhile, Mary Louise, the cook at the inn Jonas’ daughter runs, and the place where Jonas and his
wife live, has stumbled upon a deadly secret. Her questionable after hours job has put her in contact
with a client who knows that all is not right in the town’s medical company which is attempting to hide
problems with a new stent. Mary Louise takes courage from this information and reaches out to the only
person she trusts to keep her secret and help her do the right thing: Jonas. Now faced with a second
ethical decision, Jonas has the chance either to relive his past or move beyond it. But is it really
that simple? Are there always straightforward answers? Once the intrigue begins and threatening letters
begin to arrive in people’s mailboxes, the right thing isn’t so easy to discern anymore as people’s
reputation and very lives may be at risk.
A complicated and interior novel, Hawke’s Point concentrates on a sleepy Vermont town and the secret
lives and inner needs and thoughts of those who live there. While the story focuses on discovering
the extent of damage covered up by the company and the truth about the stent (is it really dangerous —
was the cover up truly illegal or merely in a grey area), the subcurrents examine the motivations of the
human heart. Hawke’s Point doesn’t really break the past into good and evil, right and wrong, but into
situations, confusion, adultery, love, grief, mistakes, and all the big and little incidents of a life
that cohesively make the complicated and multifaceted story of a single person. We see the progression
of Jonas and his wife Emma through the inquiries into the famous murder trial, teasing out details of
their marriage and Jonas’ allegedly unethical behavior. We are shown what makes these characters tick,
where their nerve centers are, where they feel guilty, and where they feel justified, and this combined
humanity paints the world in a grey scale where is not about getting things right so much as trying to
find forgiveness and move beyond imperfect and even betrayal.
That being said, while the story is about the interiority of the characters, namely Jonas and Mary Louise,
the corporate intrigue and the added dash of past murder keeps the plot moving along nicely and gives the
story a sense of danger. This isn’t all about the past. The future is in question. Our character’s peace of
mind (or lack thereof) is at stake but so are their reputations, the life they have built, their relationships,
possibly even the town itself, not to mention the heart patients affected by the supposedly faulty stent. This
builds tension as only good storytelling can: on the individual character level and on the level of the
literary universe created.
My personal favorite character was Mary Louise, the high priced call girl with a secretive past, a surprising
friendship with Jonas and his wife, and the main character to push forward the battle over the stent. The grey
areas of legality and ethics are combined in Mary Louise, as is the racy underworld that she lives in and her
mostly hidden reasons for working in this second life. She is intriguing, never totally revealed, but close
enough that we grow to like and respect her, wondering about all those details of her life that have made her
who she is today and that have made the stent issue so very important: this attempt to do the right thing.
Jonas is likewise complicated, although more revealed to the reader, since the tale largely follows him,
although we do dip in and out of the minds of various characters, giving us a portrait of the town and of
the relationship that binds these individuals, even the villains back at the corporation as they connive
yet also attempt to seek their own resolution, providing a fully human telling of a story with many sides
and no true answers. Jonas ultimate decision in the conclusion leaves readers feeling that we have encountered
a hero, ending with a subtle message about life and family.
An inspiring read, Hawke’s Point was elegantly and tightly written and told a story not just of tense
situations, but the people in them. Highly recommended.
~ Frances Carden, Reader's Lane reviews