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The unspoken fear in tiny rural towns with inbred populations is that one of their own might someday snap and start mowing down the neighbors. That fear is realized in THE FIFTH SEASON (Three Rivers, paper, $12), Don Bredes’s second novel set in the Vermont border town of Tipton and featuring Hector Bellevance, his unassuming town constable.

After 63 consecutive days of rain, sleet and snow, Tipton is ready for a bit of spring sunshine. What it gets is a town father who suffers a meltdown and shoots the sheriff and the town clerk before disappearing into the woods. While Hector doesn’t entirely believe that Marcel Boisvert, the town road commissioner, is behind the murder spree, he joins the manhunt for the missing official. What Hector does believe is that seemingly inexplicable outbursts of violence take years, generations even, to fester into a poisonous hatred of one’s neighbors — a position that Bredes argues with grave eloquence in this disquieting novel.

— Reviewed by Marilyn Stasio, May 8, 2005