Random Act is #12 in the Jack McMorrow Mystery Series penned by Gerry Boyle and published by Maine’s Islandport Press. As soon as I received this Advance Reading Copy in the mail, I eagerly started to read it, for having read most of the series, I am an unabashed fan.Number twelve does not disappoint. I read it in a few hours, only interrupted by the need to sleep. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this may be the best installment in the series I’ve read thus far, and that’s saying a lot. Mr. Boyle continues to let his characters, such as Jack, Roxanne and their neighbour Clair grow freely; their development has not been hurried along from book to book. Outstandingly, Mr. Boyle’s storytelling and particularly the dialogues are as crisp and sharp as ever. Two examples:
Marta, an old girlfriend of Louis’ has just arrived in Sanctuary, Maine and says to Clair:
“What else is there around here?” Marta said. “There’s woods and then there’s more woods.”
“After you’ve been here a while, it’s more complicated,” Clair said. “There’s woods — and then there’s different woods.”
Marta looked at him, smiled. “Right. Maple trees, pine trees, some other kind of trees?”
Clair let it roll off.
Here, a former editor of Jack’s is speaking to him on the phone:
“I remember what Jim Dwyer said about you. Send McMorrow for coffee and he comes back with three good stories and five guys that want to kick his ass.”
“It’s a gift,” I said.
Random Act moves along quite quickly, and while there are chapters, there is no convenient break in the story to place a bookmark. There are several things I liked about Random Act:
- less violence, more investigative journalism by Jack
- his neighbours, Clair and Louis are both ex-Marine, but their abilities with various weaponry and tactical planning are downplayed compared to previous books
- Roxanne and their daughter Sophie are less prominent than formerly, which means more Jack, less domesticity.
Then there are the constant features of Jack’s world: rural Maine and it’s not-so-cozy aspects, cops that would prefer he not get involved in a case for it means only more trouble and lots of driving in and around Maine. The story of Random Act introduces features such as an axe murder, a homeless shelter and Harriet, its beleaguered director, local meth addicts, the comic book scene, and mental illness. Mr. Boyle has done some diligent research (as he mentions in the Acknowledgements) into these areas and it all adds to the realism and heightened mystery and confusion surrounding the seemingly random axe murder of a woman in a big-box store just moments after Jack passes her in the parking lot. Jack wonders if he could have done something to avert it. Could he have talked to the woman a moment longer? Would that have prevented her death? It’s enough to get Jack set on a course of resolute investigation about the murderer and the victim.
If you haven’t read any of the eleven previous Jack McMorrow Mystery Series, don’t worry. Random Act would be a good place to get initiated into Jack’s world. It’s a very different Maine from what summer visitors see.
“The tourists could turn the Maine coast into a fantasy. Thanks to Teak’s dad and brother Jason, and drugged-out Tawny, I knew better. Thanks to Rod Blaine, the phony, self-centered coward, I saw through it. On this day, for me, the Maine coast was a rockbound place of drug- addict scuffles and shameless shiny greed.”
Five stars for a first-rate, fast-paced yet intelligent murder-suspense-mystery. Add it to your summer reading list. Random Act will be available in June 2019.