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The Washington PostTheatrical as he appears in those outrageous shirts and jackets, in his fiction Boyle never steals the spotlight from his characters, from what they're wrestling with. His previous novel, When the Killing's Done (2011), took place on the Channel Islands off the coast of California and managed to make the complex issue of environmental reclamation tremendously exciting. His new novel, San Miguel, is a kind of prequel that again takes place on one of the Channel Islands, but the story's tone and pace are entirely different. Instead of violently dramatizing a contemporary debate, San Miguel is an absorbing work of historical fiction based on the lives of two real families who resided on San Miguel Island in the 19th and 20th centuries.