by Bruce TierneyOctober, 2008
Veteran's death raises questions
While we should be duly impressed with Archer Mayor's 19 Joe Gunther novels, it must be noted that William G. Tapply has penned no fewer than 24 novels featuring Boston attorney Brady Coyne. His latest, Hell Bent, reintroduces a ghost from Coyne's past, old flame Alex Sinclair, whom he has not seen in the seven years following their rather acrimonious split. She has not paid the visit to reignite the old romance, though; she really needs the services of a good lawyer. It seems that Alex's brother, Augustine, once a notable photojournalist, has returned from Iraq with post - traumatic stress disorder, ostensibly from the explosion in which he lost his hand and thus his career in a single disastrous moment. Since his return stateside, Augustine spends his days working in a camera shop, and his evenings in a loosely knit therapy group, serving out his time, never far from an all - consuming depression. His wife has filed for divorce, and Alex wants Brady Coyne to represent Augustine's interests, since her brother shows little inclination even to fight for his kids, a decision that Alex is sure he will regret once he gets better. Sadly, he will never have the chance to get better; shortly after his first meeting with Coyne, Augustine is found dead in his small apartment, an apparent suicide. Something does not set right with Coyne, however, and bit by bit he begins to unearth evidence suggesting murder. Hell Bent is crisply plotted, like all of the Coyne novels to date, and full of the requisite twists and turns that keep even the veteran mystery reader on edge.
CAUGHT IN TRAFFIC
In his Joe Gunther novels, which now number 19, author Archer Mayor draws upon his long years of experience as a death investigator for the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner (not to mention his service as a deputy sheriff, firefighter and EMT), and it shows on every page. In The Catch, Gunther takes on the role every cop hopes to avoid: lead investigator into the murder of a fellow officer. Was it a simple traffic stop gone horribly wrong, or was the officer somehow complicit in his own death? It quickly becomes evident that the officer was roundly loathed by his work colleagues and neighbors alike, and on the surface at least, nobody seems the least bit bothered by his untimely demise. And there is more than a passing possibility that he was somehow involved in the burgeoning drug trade for which Vermont has become a major corridor since folks discovered that Canada offers a veritable cornucopia of cut - rate pharmaceuticals. Factor in a couple of unscrupulous Maine lobstermen and a deadly Quebecois dealer (drugs, mostly, but he has an open mind about anything that might generate some extra cash), and Gunther will have his work cut out for him not only to solve the case, but also just to stay alive. If you are a newcomer to the series, it is no problem to start with number 19, except of course that you will almost certainly want to devour numbers one through 18 shortly thereafter.
TERROR IS CONTAGIOUS
Alex Kava's latest Maggie O'Dell mystery, Exposed, finds the redoubtable FBI agent up against the most challenging villain of her career: a bio - terrorist with the wherewithal (and the inclination) to unleash the deadly Ebola virus on an unsuspecting U.S. population. O'Dell is further hobbled in the investigation by the fact that she has potentially been exposed to the virus, and thus has found herself sequestered in a top - secret quarantine hospital in Quantico, her access to the outside world limited to phone and Internet. From this remote command post, O'Dell must draw on her not inconsiderable investigative skills, as well as those of her field assistants, to bring said terrorist to justice before he can strike again. Meanwhile, in her seclusion, O'Dell begins to experience the first of the symptoms associated with Ebola: is it just her overactive imagination, or has she truly been infected? And if she has, how long can she continue her investigation before the virus takes over? Terrorism can come in many forms, but perhaps the most truly terror - inspiring is bio - terrorism, as it has the potential to spread of its own accord, well past the original opening act of the perpetrator. Kava has crafted a well - researched and soberly laid out "what if" scenario that ought to strike a disturbing chord in the hearts and minds of the American public (but thankfully stopping short of providing a how - to primer for would be terrorists).
MYSTER OF THE MONTH
When it comes to series mysteries, there's everybody else, and then there'sMichael Connelly. Is he really that good, you ask? Oh yeah, he's really that good. With few exceptions, his novels have centered on the exploits of one Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch, a Los Angeles police detective with authority issues and an individualistic, some might say iconoclastic, way of solving crimes. A few years back, Connelly introduced a new character, shady - ish lawyer Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer, so named because he does the bulk of his business from the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car rather than a brick - and - mortar office). In Connelly's latest, The Brass Verdict, Bosch and Haller team up, and not entirely congenially, to rout out the murderer of Los Angeles attorney Jerry Vincent. Upon Vincent's death, per his last will and testament, all of his cases became the property of Mickey Haller - including a major murder case featuring a well - known and volatile Hollywood studio exec. As Haller prepares his defense, Bosch mounts a campaign to peruse Haller's files, with the thought that a clue to Jerry Vincent's murder might be found there. Haller is disinclined, to say the least, to give the cops any access to privileged lawyer - client communications. And so their dance begins, each wanting to protect his turf; if it has to be at the expense of the other, well, so be it. Then an attempt is made on Haller's life, and all bets are off. Clearly something must be done, and soon, but Haller is understandably reluctant to accede to Bosch's plan, namely to use Haller as bait to draw out the killer. So as not to give away too much of the plot, let's just say this: The Brass Verdict is a certified page - turner that will suck you in from page one, and not let you go until the final sentence.
An aside: the U.S. has a Poet Laureate. What's that about? Nobody reads poetry, right? It's because we are all too busy reading mysteries, I suspect. I propose a new honor, that of Mysterion Laureate, and nominate Michael Connelly as the first honoree. The presidential candidate who promises to act on that initiative gets my vote!