In historic Newburyport, Massachusetts, the swift tidal currents of the Merrimack River are as treacherous as they are beautiful. When an unidentified man drowns on a bleak winter’s day, the event inspires fear and anger—but it also unites Newburyporters, reminding them that living hard by the sea requires uncommon fortitude and endurance.
When Iver Smyth, a man reputed for his drinking, gambling, and scandalous affairs, disappears, his eccentric family shows a curious disinterest as locals speculate that it is his body that has broken through the river ice and been swept out to sea. Yet others—wives, lovers, children, and a stranger who is intent on collecting overdue debts—are determined to find out whether Smyth is dead or alive, and whether this was an unfortunate accident, an artful deception, a suicide, or, perhaps, an act of cold-blooded vengeance.
Nelson Rideout, who worked on a restoration site with Iver the day of his disappearance, has his own reasons for seeking the truth, particularly when he learns that his dissolute brother, affectionately known as Tuna, harbors troubling secrets regarding the missing man. To discover the tragic significance of this drowning, Nelson must confront long-held loyalties, his failed marriage and splintered family, and the realization that there is nothing more important—or dangerous—than a grown man trying to prove his own worth.
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