The spirit of Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled Continental Op detective is alive and well in Gerry Boyle’s Jack McMorrow. Given, he is a somewhat kinder, gentler version, but don’t let the façade fool you: Jack means business. Once Burned (2015, Islandport Press) is #10 in the Jack McMorrow series based on the activities of the investigative reporter created by Maine author Gerry Boyle.
A Serial Arsonist in a Small Town
The small town of Sanctuary, Maine is being systematically targeted by a serial arsonist that knows his craft. Living close by Sanctuary is Jack McMorrow, investigative reporter currently working for the New York Times. Jack’s wife, Roxanne has recently resigned from her job as a case worker for the state’s child protection program. In a case she was assigned before she quit, a child was taken from her druggie mother but accidentally died in the custody of the foster-mother. Distraught, strung out and angry, the birth mother seeks out Roxanne, not for retribution or revenge (as Jack immediately suspects) but for understanding. Or is that her real motive? Could Jack’s suspicions be correct? Between covering the arsons (and trying to find the arsonist) and attempting to protect his family in their rural Maine home, Jack is embroiled in a mystery and a family dilemma in a taught, gripping story that gets more intriguing by the minute.
Once Burned was a great read; in fact, I set aside the other books I was reading at the time to finish this novel, it was that engrossing, well-paced and well-written. Mr. Boyle has undoubtedly refined his craft (#11, Straw Man has already been released) to the point that the dialog is tough and sparse (a la Hammett); no niceties or fluff here! The story lines take time to unfold, yet overall, they are not complex, nor hard to follow. The characters are realistic and diverse; all have some skeletons in their closets, some enough to be labelled as the arsonist, and red herrings are everywhere, much to Jack’s consternation. If you like crime mysteries, then I can practically guarantee that Once Burned will hold your interest until the final page.