Author: Terrence McCauley

Publisher: Polis Books

ISBN: 978-1-947993-05-1

Not as hard-boiled as the old-school detectives from Chandler, Hammett, Leonard, Parker, and others, Charlie Doherty might be more of a three-minute egg who still gets the job done just fine. Mrs. Fairchild, a rich NYC dowager, not believing her insurance exec husband could ever commit suicide, wants to know who killed him, and she’s willing to pay for it. With the help of the secretive Mr. Dorn (part of the plot is Doherty’s discovery of who he really is), Charlie’s investigation soon has national and international repercussions as he learns about some of the organizations the victim was secretly supporting.

In this novel written in the first person, the reader becomes the PI as he uncovers the clues. He’s a flawed hero, this ex-Marine who fought in WWI in the Belleau Wood but was booted out of NYPD when he lost favor among the Tammany Hall crowd. My only problem with the first person usage is that it often forces a linearity that sometimes inhibits complexity. Here the author maintains linearity but also includes complexity.

Mr. Dorn recognizes Charlie’s potential in spite of his past and recommends the PI to Mrs. Fairchild. The suspense and intrigue keeps building until the climax that makes this a thriller as well as a mystery. There is an underlying dark theme here: the world contains all kinds of human beings, many with flaws, creating a linear continuum from good to evil that the reader can analyze here in a historical setting but has a reflection in current news stories. The author has created characters that have complex behaviors that jump around that continuum. Clancy said fiction must seem real, and what’s portrayed here is hard-boiled reality.

Doherty is the best example of this complexity: Except for the ending and his checkered past, he comes across as a sensitive man and not a gun-loving macho warrior. His pickup on Mrs. Fairchild’s real reason for hiring him—not that her husband didn’t commit suicide, but why—provides an early clue for this sensitivity that is amplified as the story progresses.

This is the kind of book I love to read. Nicely done, Mr. McCauley. As one writer to another, I’m hoping for a sequel.