When Elly Bulkington's husband, Fred, is stricken with survivor's guilt after September 11--he was supposed to be at a meeting at the World Trade Center but traded places with a coworker--he enters, with Elly's support, a Irish brewery's contest to win a pub on the country's southwestern coast. Their arrival in the small seaside town offers the couple opportunities--a new business and a stab at novel-writing for Fred, and the challenge of a new ocean for Elly, a former competitive swimmer who feels most herself when in the water.
With Elly narrating, The Night Swimmer explores how these separate endeavors strain the Bulkingtons' marriage. Elly spends increasing amounts of time on the nearby small island of Clear, obsessing over making an open-water swim to its lighthouse, while Fred becomes more interested in the pub's inventory than its business prospects. And though the locals view the couple with some suspicion, Elly is increasingly drawn into local conflicts and intrigues, determined to unravel the island's mysteries.
Matt Bondurant (The Wettest County in the World) does not lay out or wrap up his mysteries neatly, but that doesn't entirely matter: what stands out in The Night Swimmer is its atmosphere and its narrating voice. Elly's struggles with the elements in storms and on the ocean are vividly conveyed, as are her puzzlement over Clear's secrets and her efforts to unravel them... even as what she learns makes her question whether she and Fred should even be in Ireland at all. Bondurant infuses his third novel with a pervasive sense of foreboding and a final act that hits with the impact of an Irish gale. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness