September 20, 1982 12:00 PM

by Merle Drown

Ever since Grace Metalious discovered sex and violence in a quaint New England setting called Peyton Place, no one seems willing to believe the villages of the region could be as peaceful and innocent as they look. Drown, in his first novel, wraps his story around murder in the fictional town of Enoch, N.H. The first murder occurs when three of the town’s leaders beat to death a successful dairy farmer whom no one likes and dump his body into the freezing river. Apparently everyone in town knows who did it except the man’s widow, a quiet little woman until she sees the law isn’t going to act, and his bumbling cousin. Two other horrible murders are woven among interesting details about the bitter weather, the dairy business and making candy from maple syrup. Drown, a high school English teacher in Concord, N.H., is a solid, no-nonsense writer. He overdoes a grisly description of a body that has been submerged in the river too long, but this is a well-told story of corruption in a small town. (Dial, $14.95)

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