Sunday, June 05, 2016

How to Risk It All, in STRAW MAN, Gerry Boyle

Ten Jack McMorrow crime novels came out over the years before Mainer Gerry Boyle's just-released STRAW MAN. Through those ten, Jack has rescued his family from threats brought by his career as a freelance crime reporter (think New York Times and more) and also from some creeps that his wife Roxanne's career antagonized (social workers meet a tough crowd). So you'd think his cred at home would be pretty good, especially considering what a great parent he is to their daughter Sophie. Plus Jack's combat-trained (but peace-loving) neighbor Claire and his wife Mary life next door, close friends with Jack and Roxanne and their charming six-year-old.

You'd be wrong this time, though.

Some of the problem came from Jack -- walking into the house bloody and battered isn't a great example for your little daughter, right? Of course, with Jack, the fight was for someone else's sake, and for the balance of good in the universe, or at least his region of rural Maine. And it won't get in the way of the next two stories he plans to explore for the newspaper, either, especially since one of them is on indie gun sales. But this time, Roxanne doesn't see things that way.
Roxanne took a deep breath, looked up from the mug, and said, "I'm worried about Sophie."

"Why? She seemed fine." ...

"Did you look in the mirror, Jack? Your face, your hands. What the hell happened?"

"There were some guys poaching wood off the Hoddings' land."

... "You had a brawl in the woods? ... My God, Jack. You can't do this anymore. You have a daughter."

"That's why we made sure we won."
Roxanne isn't buying into Jack's reasoning -- at all. The new factor in the equation that used to balance the two of them (and their little daughter) is named Welt, and he disapproves of male violence. Roxanne thinks that's heroic: "Welt is a really nice guy. What he's doing is good. He wants to make the world a better place."

So does Jack McMorrow, when you come right down to it. That's why he got into that "brawl" in the woods, defending the assets of a vulnerable elderly couple. It's also what will pull him so deep into his two cross-pollinating stories of gun sales and local Mennonites that he'll keep telling himself -- and Roxanne -- that he has to take action to save others.

The trouble is, Roxanne doesn't believe him any longer. And Jack isn't sure whether she's already considering leaving him, for this Welt guy. In fact, each added scrap of evidence says she's almost on her way.

There's never been a situation before for Jack McMorrow that his friendship with Claire couldn't solve. Until now.

Gerry Boyle's action-packed storytelling never slows down in STRAW MAN. Every couple of pages there's a new twist, and the suspense keeps twisting tighter. When the threats in his work life angle sideways toward Roxanne and little Sophie, Jack's own risks turn almost unbearable.

Here's a plus: You don't need to read any of the other Jack McMorrow books before this one -- you can ride the fast-paced plot and feel yourself twist and agonize with Jack all the way through, without needing to know what came before this. (You might want to collect the others afterward, though, to catch up!) On the other hand, if you've been reading them all along -- and most especially the most recent, Once Burned -- the stakes will feel even higher, the danger more inescapable.

Way to go, Gerry Boyle (and Islandport Press). And Jack McMorrow.

No comments: