Port City Shakedown|
A Brandon Blake Crime Novel
Down East Books, 240pp, $24.95
Back in 1995, Gerry Boyle's first Jack McMorrow Mystery, Bloodline was published. Set in a little town up-country, McMorrow was a semi-wash-up from the big city who couldn't resist a clue. He was a likeable guy with some mileage on him and had gained him some pretty interesting personal foibles--which occasionally tripped him up. His neighbors were equally eccentric and equally charming and together they sleuthed around solving crime. For those of us who enjoyed these novels, it was a sad day when we figured out there weren't going to be any more of them. Pretty Dead came out in 2003 and then there was silence.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I saw Boyle's name on Port City Shakedown--but disappointed to see that good old McMorrow had been replaced by a new character, Brandon Blake. Boyle's new hero who is young and urban, at least by Portland standards lives on an old wooden Chris Craft in Portland Harbor. The very first impression of our hero is that he is tad callow. He manages to sock a wedding guest when called in to break up a fight at the reception. (He's shadowing a seasoned police officer as part of his training to become a cop.) But as Boyle slowly reveals Blake's background--single mother lost at sea--brought up by his alcoholic grandmother, appreciation for the character grows. It seems to me that Boyle has started fresh partly for the opportunity to develop a character over time (and episodes). McMorrow was a pretty complete adult. Blake has plenty of room to grow.
The change from the rural setting to the city, and the woods to the shore, also gives Boyle a whole new environment to explore. Blake manages a marina and there is plenty of sailing and power-boating going on. Blake also gets a girlfriend right at the beginning so there isn't the relationship baggage that there was with McMorrow.
The crime involves smuggling by boat. I won't mention the type of contraband as that is one of the late plot surprises. There are two types of urban bad guys--the lowlifes who are just barely hanging on and commit semi-violent crimes out of desperation (and lack of imagination) and the debonair citizens of the world who love money and detest their fellow humans. These two groups run amok in parallel stories. In the end, young Blake figures them both out and impresses both his girlfriend and the police.
So as it was with McMorrow, I will eagerly await the next Brandon Blake Crime Novel and recommend this one. It is an extra tickle to be familiar with the setting. Portland is a great little city and then there's all that water and all those islands for the plots to thicken in and on.