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The Last Refuge by Chris Knopf
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The Last Refuge (2005)

by Chris Knopf

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9710124,414 (3.44)5

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
How could I resist a book set in the Hamptons, where I spent a lot of summers in my youth? Not the Hamptons you read about and see on TV, but the working class communities that were still there the last time I looked, which was several years ago. Knopf does a great job of writing a noir mystery set in an unlikely setting for such an endeavor. And his hero is an engineer--I may have to recommend this book to my father-in-law, a retired chemical engineer. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Sam Acquillo is an ex- Computer support executive who as a hobbyist created a system that increased mileage in big engine cars and he got a big check for his efforts. He is also an ex- prize fighter, and he has an ex. And an adult daughter. He's 52 and drinks a lot, lives in his deceased parent's' cottage in the Hamptons and he helps out his grouchy old lady neighbor. She dies. Sam decides to volunteer to be administrator of her minimal estate but it soon turns out to be a bigger headache than Sam was expecting. It all mushrooms into a complex plot involving trusts, real estate values on the Island, and a dead body or two. Sam meets some very interesting characters including some available, sexy ladies - but Sam plays it cool and spends most of his time with the most likable charater Eddie, who really charms the ladies.. Then there's the sexy wacky lawyer, the sexy banker, the sexy daughter with the huge honker and pink folds, rich guy Burton (a stretch), a cop, some bad guys....Lots of good dialog, repartee. Will read more of the series, want to hear how the nose job comes out. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jul 24, 2012 |
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Sam Acquillo's at the end of the line. A middle-aged corporate dropout living in his dead parent's ramshackle cottage in Southampton's North Sea, Sam has abandoned friends, family and a big-time career to sit on his porch, drink vodka and stare at the little Peconic Bay. But then the old lady next door ends up floating dead in her bathtub and it seems like Sam's the only who wonders why. Despite himself, burned-out, busted up and cynical, the ex-engineer, ex-professional boxer, ex-loving father and husband finds himself uncovering secrets no one could have imagined, least of all Sam himself. Meanwhile, a precession of quirky character intrudes on Sam's misanthropic way--a beautiful banker, pot-smoking lawyer, bug-eyed fisherman and gay billionaire join a full complement of cops, thugs and local luminaries, the likes of which you never knew inhabited the hidden corners of the storied Hamptons: haves, have-nots and want-to-have-at-all-costs. Some deadly. Like Dr. Gernard Ricux in Camus' The Plague, tragedy has given Sam Acquillo an excuse to go on living-if for no other reason than to satisfy his curiosity, and may be buy a little time before succumbing to the existential despair that has brought him to the brink.

My Review: Damaged systems engineer, divorced dad, and all-around working class hero Sam Acquillo retreats to his parents' old cabin in North Sea, a part of Southampton Township that us rich white folk used to call "Blackhampton", aka the working class part of New York's trendy and eternally inflating Hamptons. Sam's licking his wounds after a messy divorce from Boston/Connecticut Aryan-from-Darien Abby, and his scandalous separation from his Fortune 500 corporate employer, after beating up the revolting toady who wants to sell Sam's division to the highest bidder without regard to its consequences for the engineers he supervises.

Sam's horrible old-lady neighbor, Regina, dies; she's got no heirs, she's got no money, she doesn't even own the home she's occupied for over 50 years. And Sam, who has nothing but time on his hands, doesn't buy the manner of her death: she drowned in her bathtub. Problem is, she had severe arthritis, and used the cottage's (separate) shower. This gets Sam's problem-solving brain occupied for the first time since his divorce. And thereby hangs the tale of the first-ever Long Island Noir mystery novel. What he discovers during his nosing about the facts and the fallacies of his tiny North Sea peninsula neighborhood's past and present makes him appreciate anew the peace and solitude he left behind when he chose to become the champion of truth and justice and the populist way; he cannot go back and he doesn't want to go forward, yet he knows he must make his choice. And so he does. And nothing in North Sea can ever be the same.

Oh wow. What a fun ride! What a delight to have this book that harks back to the Dashiell Hammett "Continental Op" books! And all set here on Long Island, mah home! I loved reading the author's supple, decriptive prose; I loved the author's ability to make me invest in and care for the flawed hero main character, and I was bowled over by the clear-eyed populism of the author's presentation of the social issues plaguing the Hamptons. I have friends in East Hampton who experience the world in the same way as Sam Acquillo does. It's very exciting to see that on the page, as anyone who's read a book that "gets it right" about their home partch can tell you.

Then there's the modern dearth of real, heartfelt NOIR in fiction and movie-making. Characters who've lost everything, and so can't be scared. Situations that're based in the real concerns of real people. Problems that have no counterpart in most mysteries and thrillers, but should.

Okay. That's the upside.

Then there's the downsside. The copyediting **rots**. "Noyac Rd." in ****dialogue**** oofwince...and on the facing page, "Harbor Road." Oh now really. You can get it right on one page and not on the other? grrrrrrr

The gawdawful spelling mistakes! The parallelism errors. *wince*

But in the end, well, the beauty of the book is simply in its characters and its ability to draw you into its lie-filled world. Sam, his love interest Eddie the dog, and the women who want them are deeply involving. I care about them, and I want to read more about them. ( )
4 vote richardderus | Apr 28, 2011 |
First in series, read for a 4MA series read. I enjoyed it; good sense of place and a likable drop-out hero whose engineering background is nicely brought out in his thought processes.
  bfister | Jun 16, 2010 |
The Last Refuge is the first of a series of mysteries about Sam Acquillo by Chris Knopf. The novels are published by a small publisher, the Permanent Press, but the author has recently been signed by St. Martin's to do a spin-off series. It's neat to know that publishing small really can lead to publishing large, but I suspect it only works if you're a good writer. Chris Knopf is clearly that.

Sam Acquillo's not a particularly nice guy for a hero, not safe, not easygoing. But he already seems very real to me. I trust him. At least I think I do, though I’m sure he drinks way too much. And I like him, but I’d probably not talk to him in the coffee shop. I might watch for him to appear. I’d view him with vague suspicion over my shoulder, and wonder about his past and his motives perhaps.

The author does a good job of keeping the reader questioning. At first meeting Sam is kind of down-beat, kind of negative. The reader might wonder what on earth he does all day, why's he on his own, where does he get his money. He's kind, but he doesn't think of himself as kind. And he's really sort of abrasive. The book doesn't telescope any great answers, but dribbles them over conversation, keeping you off balance and looking for more. It's like slowly getting to know someone, getting used to their presence in the store, with the added bonus of an investigation that keeps growing into something more. Then you’re glad Sam’s on the case.

So now I’m off to read more, still not really knowing Sam, but truly intrigued. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Jul 7, 2009 |
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For Jacqueline Hood Knopf
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My Father Built this cottage at the tip of Oak Point on the Little Peconic Bay in the Town of Southampton, Long Island, in the mid-1940s when there was nobody else around to build anything.
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Sam Acquillo is at the end of the line. A middle-aged corporate dropout living in a ramshackle cottage in Southampton's North Sea, Sam has abandoned friends, family, and a big-time career to sit on his porch, drink vodka, and stare at the Little Peconic Bay. But then the old lady next door ends up floating dead in her bathtub, and it seems that Sam is the only one who wonders why. Despite himself, burned out, busted up, and cynical, the ex-engineer, ex-professional boxer, ex-loving father and husband finds himself uncovering secrets no one could have imagined, least of all Sam himself.… (more)

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