The Bike Cop|
In the Greater Weight of Evidence
James H.K. Bruner
Xlibris Corp, 2018, 256 pp, HC $29.99, PB $17.51 at Amazon
David "Digger" Davenport is a summer kid from the state of New York. His affluent family summers on Ocean Avenue in Port Talbot, Maine. His fascination with criminal justice began when at 11 years of age he came upon a corpse while fishing. Using unusual strength of character and smarts, the child dragged the corpse to the main pier, and testified at the trial. This is where Bruner's wonderful descriptions begin. An 11 yr. old child hooking a corpse on his line would daunt him, but during the situation, Digger has a stoic attitude. While naturally repulsed, he remains calm and does what is logical and what he believes is best.
Eleven years later, it is the summer of 1978. Digger is taking criminal justice classes at the University of New York, Queens Campus, a "top notch, forensically-focused criminal justice program". With his prominent past, and college classes, he qualifies as a bike cop in Maine for the summer. The murder mystery begins. In Maine the summer season does not only bring tourists but an insurgence of summer help from all over. The larger hotels provide housing, and in Bruner's story two young ladies decide to work at one of these infamous hotels and the problems begin.
One of the young ladies is murdered. An African American is charged for the crime. Digger has another opinion and has evidence but as a "rent-a-cop" he needs something concrete to bolster his case. He is up against local politicians whose elections are coming up; he is up against the "lobster lobby" - the significant family in town that provides the lobsters to the major hotels. However, Digger is drawn by his own moral compass, and is definitely going to get to the truth.
This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Bruner's novel. Digger is such a straightforward character. He does not let race or politics get in the way of what he believes to be the truth. Digger knows who the bad guy is, and ingeniously devises a way to get this bad guy caught by the F.B.I. when he knows that this local situation is going to be railroaded.
In a wonderful way Bruner brings forth memories of living in a small town, with locals and friends from "away"; the smells and sounds of living by the sea, the low tides and the muck, rowing in a dingy or putting around with a 2hp engine. All of this is wrapped around a time when an African American is a suspect without any true evidence. It culminates at trial and a satisfactory ending. Digger is a hero, and I am looking forward to this kid's next test as a young police officer.