The Whaleboat House

Publication date: July 2007 | UK Publisher: HarperCollins  |  US Publisher: Berkley

Published in the US as Amagansett

Winner of the 2004 Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Novel by a debut author, The Whaleboat House was originally published in the United Kingdom as Amagansett.

Long Island, 1947. The men of Long Island have fished the wild Atlantic waters over the centuries. For Conrad Labarde, recently returned from the Second World War, the nets hold a sinister catch – the body of Lillian Wallace, a beautiful New York socialite. Is it an accident or murder?

Police Chief Tom Hollis is convinced the roots of the tragedy lie in the twisted histories of local families. But the enigmatic Labarde insists on pursuing his own investigation. It seems the fisherman may have powerful reasons for wanting answers to the questions surrounding her death. And in this strange place where tradition meets power and riches, the truth is a rare thing indeed…


A master of the art of murderous storytelling.

Sunday Times

A very rich book – rich in detail and history and local colour; rich in characters and conflict and mystery; and, most importantly, rich in wonderful writing.


Mark Mills has written a first novel that reverberates in the mind with the force of a literary epiphany.

Irish Times

Paced to perfection… a highly enjoyable murder investigation set against a backdrop of sumptuous local detail.


An historical crime thriller loaded to the gunwales with maritime lore and local history…Mills’s meditation on life at the edge of the world may be deeply romantic but it is also precise, sensitive and clear.


An intriguingly atmospheric crime novel…brilliantly evoked.

Daily Mail

Clever, original, subtle and stylish.


Remarkable… written with all the wit, lyrical language and slow character development one would search for in the literary department, the book is as rich in time frame and location as any you’d find in the best historical fiction.

Los Angeles Times

An excellently dark and thoughtful tale set among the residents of the farthest reaches of Long Island… holds us in its grip at every moment.

Chicago Tribune

Strong debut melodrama, solid as granite, not a cliché in sight… sea, sky, tossing waves, curling whitecaps, foam, rowboats cutting through a wild unrest – not to mention high humour and heartfelt sex.

Kirkus Review

A timeless story of love and death in a divided community… a beautifully written and haunting tale.


An evocative tale of love and murder in America’s legendary summer playground.

People (Critics Choice)

A complex and compelling excursion into the collision of two unfamiliar worlds. Mark Mills reveal himself to be a master storyteller.


A striking and assured first thriller…worldly and impeccably researched.


Atmospheric thriller…good strong characters and an intricate plot give this impressively written novel its gritty edge.

New York Daily News

A bit of background

The Whaleboat House started life as the germ of an idea which first lodged itself in my head during a visit to the United States in 1998. I was writing film scripts at that time, and was holidaying with my wife and our newborn son in Amagansett, a small town near the northern tip of Long Island.

Over dinner one night, a friend of our hosts mentioned that the local fishermen still spoke with the English accents of their seventeenth century forbears. This simple notion – that there were people with three hundred years of tradition enshrined in their voices – hooked me immediately, chiefly because that part of the world has long since become a playground for wealthy types from New York and elsewhere, who flood out to their second homes on the ‘South Fork’ during the summer months.

The clash of these two quite different cultures – one ancient, simple and local; the other new, moneyed, and alien – sits at the heart of the story, which might have started life as a film, had the producers to whom I pitched the idea not insisted that it be set in the present day. I felt quite strongly that the story should take place in the past, at a time when the uneasy relationship between the locals and the wealthy outsiders was coming to a head. There is no longer any contest, any real conflict; money (as ever) has won out over the old ways of the people who first settled this remote corner of America.

It was a tough decision to break off from scriptwriting, from paid work, and attempt to tell the story as a novel, but I knew I had to give it a shot or I would always regret it. A year later, and following two research trips to Long Island, I was penniless, but I had the opening eighty pages of the book! Fortunately, these were enough to attract the interest of a number of publishers around the world, and I found myself in the happy position of being able to take the time to write the rest of the book.

The Whaleboat House is set in 1947, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and although it’s a murder mystery, it is also – I hope – a study of a community, and of a nation at a particular point in its history.