Review

The Water’s Edge

by Daniel Judson

Though set in the Hamptons, THE WATER’S EDGE has a
Jersey-noir sense to it. Taking place over a 24-hour period, with
the balance occurring in the dead of night, the sun --- even in
daylight --- never shines here.

The book opens with a struggling restaurateur, in the midst of a
late-night refurbishing project, witnessing a gruesome
double-murder on a nearby bridge. Others, one by one, are brought
into the mix, including (but by no means limited to) Jake Bechet,
an ex-boxer, now part owner of a cab company; Bobby Falchetti,
Bechet’s friend and employee, whose moral weaknesses have the
potential to bring down not only himself but also those around him;
and Tommy Miller, a retired private investigator turned reclusive
landlord, who is haunted by the memory of the lover who abruptly
left him years before.

It is the manner in which master chef Daniel Judson mixes his
characters into this hard-boiled roux that makes THE WATER’S
EDGE such a compelling, addicting read. If we are separated by only
six degrees from everyone else, that distance is halved in
Judson’s Southampton. The victims of the murder are in the
employ of Jorge Castello, a shady, seemingly omnipotent figure who
has his fingers in pies both legal and illicit and is the reluctant
former employer of Bechet.

Castello draws Bechet back into his orbit with a quietly roiling
combination of threats and promises, for the purposes of
determining who committed the murders and recovering some unnamed
merchandise that Castello considers his own. He is certain that
there is a traitor within his organization who is responsible for
both the murders and the misappropriation of his goods; he figures,
quite cannily, that the only way to get to the bottom of it is to
go outside of his sphere of influence to Bechet, the one man who
was able to walk away from him and make it stick.

Miller, meanwhile, is recruited by Southampton’s chief of
police to conduct his own investigation into the killings, as a
pragmatic move: there are things he can do and places he can go
that the police cannot. Both men are given 24 hours to get results.
Their investigations take them to places in their past that they
would rather not go: Bechet to his --- and his father’s ---
prior work for Castello, and Miller to his former love, who it
seems was involved, in more ways than one, with one of the murder
victims. Even as Miller’s and Bechet’s investigations
each draw them slowly to the other, however, there are connections
between them of which only one is aware and that must remain so if
their lives, and those for whom they care, are to survive the
day.

THE WATER’S EDGE is infused with dark, brilliant writing that
focuses the mind and addicts the brain with its characterization
and plotting. It is one of those novels that is so difficult to do
well: take a number of individuals running around in a relatively
small area, each with different pieces of the puzzle that the
others need, and put a couple of them at crosscurrents with each
other, until only the toughest and smartest is the one left
standing. There are others who approach and match this level of
East Coast noir --- Peter Blauner, Jason Starr, Wallace Stroby ---
each of whom strikes a nerve and plays it like a finely tuned
string. Judson, with THE WATER’S EDGE, cements his already
secure place in the genre.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

The Water’s Edge
by Daniel Judson

  • Publication Date: June 30, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312355165
  • ISBN-13: 9780312355166