Pretty Dead is #7 in the Jack McMorrow Mystery series by Maine author Gerry Boyle. It is a 2016 Islandport Press reissue of the original 2003 edition. Two of his latest books in the series, Once Burned (#10) and Straw Man (#11) was reviewed here in 2016. Of note, Straw Man was the winner of the 2017 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. You know you’re getting a good read with Mr Boyle’s books.
Pretty Dead has Jack and his girlfriend Roxanne Masterton visiting the Maine coast where an allegation of child abuse (Roxanne is a social worker) has been levelled against the Connellys, David and Maddie, a wealthy blue-blood Boston family vacationing in Blue Harbor. Jack goes along for the ride but gets involved in the case when David Connelly invites him in. Then Jack’s investigative reporter mode kicks in. An attractive young woman named Angel Moretti who works for the family’s charitable foundation is later found dead, murdered near Jack and Roxanne’s home in Prosperity, Maine. Naturally, Jack is first on the scene and identifies the body. Now he is fully involved in the case which takes him to Boston (as guests of David and Maddie) where he and Roxanne sense that all is not as it appears to be in this friendly, welcoming couple. Jack gets pressured by hired muscle Mick and Vincent to stop his investigations, which only serves to make Jack more determined to get answers to his questions about the case.
Pretty Dead is a worthy instalment in the series, but as I have read the latest books in the series first, it is easy to pinpoint a marked evolution of the characters of Jack, Roxanne and even their ex-Marine neighbour Clair Varney over time. Nevertheless, there are all the hallmarks of a Gerry Boyle mystery: terse, snappy dialogues and turns of phrase worthy of a Hammett or Chandler:
“It occurred to me that Angel’s problem wouldn’t be hooking up with men, but setting the hook so deep they couldn’t be released.”
“When we rolled into Blue Harbor, the air was brisk and cool. Summer people in the village had sweaters tied around their necks by their sleeves, like they were being strangled by pastel ghosts.”
Book #8, Home Body, is also on my “to-be-read” list, so we’ll see what’s in store for Jack and Roxanne next in that book. All of Gerry Boyle’s Jack McMorrow series are being reissued by Maine’s Islandport Press.
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