Sunday, August 14, 2016

Introducing Boston Attorney Brady Coyne

First published in 1984, this is the book that introduced Boston attorney, Brady Coyne. His creator, William G. Tapply, would ultimately go on to write another twenty-seven books in the series, ending with Outwitting Trolls, which was published in 2010, shortly after Tapply's death. It's a very good series, sort of medium-boiled, with a likable protagonist and well-developed plots.

Unlike a lot of series characters, Brady Coyne was almost fully developed by the time he first appeared. He has a small, one-man firm and a faithful secretary named Julie. More by accident than by design, he has developed a client list that consists of mostly elderly, wealthy people. Brady does a lot of wills and estate planning, and he spends a lot of time holding the hands of his clients and giving them personal service.

He's also a dedicated fisherman who loves to sneak out of the office for a late afternoon on a river somewhere. (Tapply was an ardent outdoors man who, in addition to writing novels, contributed articles to magazines likeField & Stream.) Brady is in is mid-thirties when we first meet him, and he doesn't age much as the series progresses. He'd divorced with two sons and has a somewhat awkward relationship with his ex-wife and his children. He's a ladies' man and usually has his eye out for an attractive woman.

One thing he's definitely not is a gourmet cook. In creating the character, Tapply decided that there were already too many such characters in crime fiction and so he decided to go totally in the opposite direction. Coyne eats a lot of meals at places like Burger King, and when dining at home, his preference is for Dinty Moore Beef Stew straight out of the can. Unlike a certain famous Boston P.I., no one will ever get a great recipe from Brady Coyne.

This being a crime fiction series, even the business of Brady's elderly clients will sometimes land him in big trouble and personal danger, and such is the case here in his maiden effort. A wealthy client named Florence Gresham has, or had, two sons. The elder, Winchester, is missing and presumed dead, a victim of the war in Vietnam, but his body was never found. Mrs. Gresham wants Brady to investigate and determine once and for all what happened to him. Brady protests that, as an attorney, he's not really equipped to make an investigation like this, but his client is insistent and you don't say no to someone like Florence Gresham.

No sooner does Brady begin his investigation when Mrs. Gresham's only other child plunges off a cliff and is killed. George Gresham was a mild-mannered history teacher at an elite prep school, and when his body is discovered in the waters off Charity's Point, his death is ruled a suicide. Mrs. Gresham refuses to accept the verdict and demands that Brady investigate.

What follows is a fairly standard sort of mid-1980s mystery novel. It's a good book but not a great one, and it shows the signs of being the author's first novel. But from the seed planted here, Tapply would gain his footing and produce a number of very good books. In all, this turns out to be a fine regional mystery series, and it's always fun to pull one off the shelf and re-read it on a quiet afternoon at the lake when Brady Coyne would be off fishing.

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