Mission Flats

Mission Flats

by William Landay

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440334552
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/26/2003
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 61,822
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

William Landay is the author of the New York Times bestseller Defending Jacob; The Strangler, a Los Angeles Times Favorite Crime Book of the Year; and Mission Flats, winner of the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel and a Barry Award nominee. A former district attorney who holds degrees from Yale and Boston College Law School, Landay lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.

Read an Excerpt


Maurice Oulette tried to kill himself once but succeeded only in blowing off the right side of his jawbone. A doctor down in Boston was able to construct a prosthetic jaw, with imperfect results. The surgery left Maurice's face with a melted appearance, and he went to great lengths to hide it. When he was younger (the accident happened when Maurice was nineteen), he wore a bandanna around his face like a bank robber in an old western. This gave Maurice, who was otherwise a mousy and unromantic sort of guy, a dashing appearance he seemed to enjoy for a while. Eventually he got tired of the bank-robber mask, though. He was always lifting it up to catch a breath of fresh air or to take a drink. So he simply discarded the thing one day, and since then Maurice has been about as unself-conscious as a jawless man can be.

Most people in town accept Maurice's deformity as if it were no more unusual to be jawless than to be nearsighted or left-handed. They are even a little protective of him, taking care to look him in the eye, call him by name. If the summer people stare, as even the adults invariably do, you can bet they'll catch an icy stare right back, from Red Caffrey or Ginny Thurler or anyone else who happens to be around, a look that says, Eyes front, mister. Versailles is a nice town that way. I used to think of this place as an enormous Venus's-flytrap with glue-sticky streets and snapping wings that snared young people like me and held us here until it was too late to ever live anywhere else. But these people have stuck by Maurice Oulette and they've stuck by me too.

They appointed me chief of police when I was twenty-four. For a few months I, Benjamin Wilmot Truman, was the youngest police chief in the United States, or so it was assumed around here. My reign was brief; later that same year, there was a story in USA Today about a twenty-two-year-old who was elected sheriff in Oregon somewhere. Not that I ever enjoyed the distinction anyway. Truth be told, I never wanted to be a cop at all, let alone police chief in Versailles.

In any event, Maurice lived in his late father's white clapboard house, subsisting on SSI checks and occasional free meals from the town's two competing diners. He'd won a settlement from the Maine Department of Social Services for negligent monitoring of his case while he shot the jawbone off his head, so he was comfortable enough. But, for reasons no one understood, the last few years Maurice had ventured out of the house less and less. The consensus in town was that he was becoming a little reclusive and maybe even a little crazy. But he had never hurt anyone (except himself), so the general view was that whatever Maurice Oulette did out here was nobody's business but his own.

I tended to agree with that position too, though I drew one exception. Every few months, with no warning, Maurice decided to use the streetlights on Route 2 for target practice, to the great distress of motorists traveling between Millers Falls, Mattaquisett township, and Versailles. (The name is pronounced Ver-sales, not Ver-sigh.) Maurice was usually lit on Wild Turkey on these occasions, which may account for his poor decision-making and poorer aim. On this night--it was October 10, 1997--the call came in around ten, Peggy Butler complaining that "Mr. Oulette is shooting at cars again." I assured her Maurice wasn't shooting at cars, he was shooting at streetlights, and the odds of him hitting a car were actually very slim. "Ha ha, Mr. Comedian," Peggy said.

Off I went. I began to hear the shots when I got within a mile or two of the house. These were sharp rifle cracks at irregular intervals, once every fifteen seconds or so. Unfortunately it was necessary for me to go up Route 2 to reach the house, which meant passing through Maurice's crosshairs. I lit up the wigwags, the light bar, the alley lights, every bulb that truck had--it must have looked like a Mardi Gras float--with the hope that Maurice would hold his fire a minute. I wanted him to know it was only the police.

I parked the Bronco with two wheels on the lawn, lights flashing. At the rear corner of the house, I shouted, "Maurice, it's Ben Truman." No response. "Hey, Rambo, would you stop shooting for a second?" Again there was no response, but then, there was no shooting either, which I took to be a positive sign. "Alright, I'm coming out," I announced. "Now, Maurice, don't shoot."

The backyard was a small rectangle of scrub grass, sand, and pine needles. It was scattered with detritus of various kinds: a skeletal clothes-drying rack, a street-hockey goal, a milk crate. In the far corner an old Chevy Nova lay flat on its belly, the wheels having been transplanted to some other shitbox Chevy Nova years before. The car still had its Maine license plate, with the picture of a lobster and the motto vacationland.

Maurice stood at the edge of the yard with a rifle in the crook of his arm. The pose suggested a gentleman hunter on a break from shooting quail. He wore boots, oil-stained work pants, a red flannel jacket, and a baseball cap pulled low over the brow. His head was down, which was not unusual. You got used to addressing the button on his cap.

I shined my flashlight over him. "Evening, Maurice."

"Evenin', Chief," the cap said.

"What's going on out here?"

"Just shootin' is all."

"I see that. You about scared Peggy Butler half to death. You want to tell me what the hell you're shooting at?"

"Them lights there." Maurice nodded toward Route 2 without looking up.

The two of us stood there for a moment nodding at each other.

"You hit any?"


"Something wrong with the gun?"

He shrugged.

"Well let's have a look at it, Maurice."

He handed me the rifle, an old Remington I'd confiscated at least a dozen times. I checked that there was a round in the chamber, then pinged one off a metal fence-pole at the edge of the field. "Gun's okay," I informed him. "Must be you that's off."

Maurice gave a little murmuring laugh.

I patted down the outside of his coat, felt the box of shells in his pocket. Reaching inside, my fingers got snarled in the Kleenex balls Maurice collected there like chestnuts. "Jesus, Maurice, do you ever clean out these pockets?" I pulled out the box of ammunition and stuck it in my own pocket. A box of Marlboro reds I opened and slipped back in Maurice's coat. "Okay if I take a look around and see how you're doing out here?"

He looked up at last. The skin grafts along his concave jawline shone silvery in the flashlight. " 'M I under arrest?"

"No, sir."

"Okay then."

I went in the back door, leaving Maurice where I'd found him. He kept his arms by his sides like a scolded child.

The kitchen stank of boiled vegetables and body odor. A fifth of Jim Beam stood on the table, half empty. The refrigerator was empty save for an ancient box of baking soda. In the cabinets were a few cans (Spaghetti-O's, Green Giant corn), a few packets of powdered soup, and a tiny hole through which carpenter ants were entering and exiting.

"Maurice," I called to him, "has your caseworker been out to see you?"

"Don't 'member."

With the barrel of Maurice's rifle, I nudged open the bathroom door and shined the flashlight about. The tub and toilet were stained yellow. Two cigarette butts floated in the toilet. Beneath the sink, a section of the wall had rotted, and a piece of particle board had been nailed there to patch the hole. At the edges of the board, the ground outside was visible.

I switched off the lights and closed up the house.

"Maurice, you remember what protective custody is?"


"What is it?"

"It's when you put me in the jail but I'm not under arrest."

"That's right. And do you remember why I have to do that, put you in protective custody?"

"To protect me, I guess. That's why they call it that."

"Well, yeah. Exactly. So that's what we're going to do, Maurice, we're going to put you in protective custody before you kill someone while you're taking potshots at streetlights."

"I didn't hit none."

"Well, Maurice, that doesn't exactly make me feel better about it. See, if you hit what you were aiming at . . ."

He gave me a blank expression.

"Look, the point is, you can't shoot at them. They're town property. Besides, what if you hit a car?"

"I never shot no cars."

These conversations with Maurice only go so far, and this one had about run its course. It wasn't completely clear whether Maurice was just slow or a little crazy. Either way, he'd earned some leeway. He'd survived a maelstrom of emotions no outsider could fathom, and he had the scars to prove it.

He looked up at me. In the moonlight, with his right side in darkness, his face was restored nearly to normal. It was the sort of lean, dark-eyed face common around here. The face of a voyageur or a timberman in an old sepia photo.

"You hungry, Maurice?"


"Did you eat?"

"Et yesterd'y."

"Want to go to the Owl?"

"Thought you were PC'ing me."

"I am."

"Do I get my gun back?"

"Nope. I'm going to have it forfeited before you shoot somebody. Like me."

"Chief Truman, I ain't gonna shoot you."

"Well, I appreciate that. But I'm going to keep it just the same because--and this is no disrespect, Maurice--you're not the greatest shot that ever was."

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Mission Flats 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beautifully constructed thriller, with twists that make sense as opposed to being inserted for the sake of twists, and where expectations are well-confounded. There are few if any consciously virtuoso elements, no weirdness introduced to spice the story up, no over-the-top characters - the author lets the story stand on its own merits, allows the characters legitimate ambiguity, and the effect is immensely satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is like a blindfolded roller coaster ride – starts off slow and steady then sends you through twists and turns, with no idea just how the ride will end. I picked this book up because I enjoyed the author’s latest book – “Defending Jacob”. Initially, I wasn’t as impressed but then I was hooked and in for the ride. Very enjoyable read – couldn’t put it down during the last 100+ pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my second book by Landay and I can't wait until payday so I can get the other one! When I have to put the book down I am so anxious to pick it up again!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Versailles, Maine, retired Police Chief Claude and his son Ben, the current chief, struggle as roommates since the death two months ago of the family anchor, his wife and Ben¿s mom. To escape the lack of communication between them, Ben inspects the deserted summer cabins near the lake. However, his leisurely stroll down memory lane thinking of his mom ends when he finds the corpse of Sussex County Assistant District Attorney Robert Danzinger in the fourth cabin checked.

Soon a horde from Massachusetts descends on the little hamlet. The Bostonian law enforcement Brahmans concentrate on ruthless drug king Harold Braxton in the MISSION FLATS section of the big city while leaving out the country bumpkin who started the investigation. None of these big city geniuses seem interested in answering why the ADA was in Versailles during the off-season? Not comfortable with what he sees, Ben obstinately continues his inquiries receiving assistance from retired cop John Kelly, his attorney daughter Caroline and mentor cop Martin Gittens. However even their ties to the deceased is suspect as a history of revenge begins to surface.

MISSION FLATS is a powerful and well written police procedural that proves former DAs can actually write a complete exciting novel that leaves the audience wanting more. The story line is filled with twists and turns and a final spin that will shock readers as few tales ever truly do. Fans will appreciate the deep look at the double helix twists of big city justice and police compromise and concession that places William Landay in his debut at the top of former ADA turn author list.

Harriet Klausner

KikiMA More than 1 year ago
I have recently become a William Landay fan, but started with a more recent book - "Defending Jacob" (another must-read). His stories are real and not mushy and predictable. I'm looking forward to his next book. In the meantime, "Mission Flats" did not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Landay's first book (author of bestseller Defending Jacob). I enjoyed this crime fiction story. Interesting characters, good story twists. A DA is killed while looking into killings in 1977 & 1987 of both cops and criminals. A small town Maine police chief becomes involved in the case when the murdered DA's body is found in his town. Landay deftly twists several stories together. He's very good at keeping you guessing who done it (as he did in Defending Jacob).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this story because I truly enjoyed Defending Jacob. I loved the authors style of writing so much I finished it and immediately started Mission Flats. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters are portrayed with the right amount of detail and drew me in. Again, the style of writing was great and I thought all along I had this 'figured' out..but I didn't know it all! Loved it! The type of book I don't want to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, I have to say that I enjoyed "Mission Flats" so much more than "Defending Jacob". The one "flaw" that I see in William Landay's writing is that he tries very hard to give the reader a "surprise", "thrilling" ending and to me, they fall flat. It's like you shake your head and say "really?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Defending Jacob first. Love this author. Keep them coming Mr. Landay!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well developed story and characters. Kept me riveted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. Keeps you guessing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MOST EXCELLENT !  this is a wonderful procedural crime mystery...   very clever, non-conventional, with realistic characters; evocative of New England, both rural and urban, in many ways;  worthy of the best Michael Connelly or John Sandford;  BRAVO...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. Keeps your attention. Also impressed by Landay's Defending Jacob. Be sure to read that mystery also. Want to read more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And so gave "Mission Flats" the opportunity to entertain me. And that it did and much more. If you haven't read anything by William Landry, I recommend you give him a try. This is an author who takes delight in presenting a story to keep you guessing the outcome until the very end. J M Lydon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great thriller. Never would have predicted any of the plot twists. Another hit by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved Defending Jacob, but quit MIssion Flats at page 129. Gave it a good try, but found it to be incredibly slow and life is too short with too many other books to read.
dpappas on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This novel shows life as a police officer in two different places; Mission Flats in Boston and Versailles, a small town in Maine. Ben Truman, the police chief of Versailles finds the body of a D.A of Boston in a cabin on the lake. Ben Truman becomes emerged entangled in the investigation of the murder and finds that his investigation leads him back to murders that happened years ago. He finds out that the D.A's murder isn't as clear-cut as it looks.I loved getting to see the point-of-view of a police officer during an investigation. I also loved the contrast between the Boston police officers and Ben Truman the police chief of a small town. This novel was filled with suspense and turns that will leave you guessing at who has committed these murders. At one point during the book I thought I had everything figured out but I learned just how wrong I had it. I would recommend this novel to fans of crime fiction and to anyone who loves a good read.
dougcornelius on LibraryThing 8 months ago
What do you look for in your crime novels? Plot twists? Good cops doing good things and bad cops doing bad things? Good cops doing thing bad things and bad cops doing good things? The seedy underside of the criminal justice system?Then you will enjoy William Landay's Mission Flats. If you have some leftover funds from your holiday gifts, pick up a copy.The book starts off with three homicides: the ugly slaying of a beat cop in 1977, the botched drug bust that left another officer dead in 1987, and a dead assistant district attorney in the present. The last murder happens in a small town in Maine. That brings the local sheriff into the investigation of the other two murders.Before I go much further, I need to let you know that Bill (yeah, I know him as Bill) is a friend. Our sons went to the same preschool. We have been to each others' homes and countless kids' birthday parties. But you don't have to take my word for how good the book is.Mission Flats won the John Creasey Memorial Dagger literary award for first time novelists writing crime fiction in 2003.New York Times Book Review: "Tough but true: a first-time novelist has to bring something new to the table -- something like the trumps that William Landay throws down in his high-stakes police procedural."Bill is a former was an assistant district attorney before he turned to writing. He brings depth and authenticity to the characters and criminal justice system.My review may be biased, but I'm also a bit sheepish to admit that after all these years I just got around to reading his book. Now that our kids are not in school together, I wish I had read the book earlier. You can read the chapter one of Mission Flats online if you want to get a taste of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This S was an alright read. I like the writing . The plot got a little thin at time. I did enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Energetic, masterful, this book has it all for good crime drama.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago