Monday, August 5, 2019

Jack McMorrow's Attempt to Write a Simple Newspaper Article Turns Complicated and Dangerous

Potshot is another solid entry in Gerry Boyle's excellent series featuring former New York Times reporter Jack McMorrow. Several years ago, Jack opted out of the big city rat race in favor of living in the bucolic woods of central Maine. It turned out, though, that, up close and personal, the woods weren't nearly as peaceful and bucolic as Jack might have hoped, and in three previous novels he's already had some pretty hair-raising experiences living up among the rural folks.

Potshot starts out innocently enough when Jack and his girlfriend, Roxanne, are enjoying a day at a small county fair. Jack is approached by some hippies who ask him to sign a petition urging the government to legalize marijuana. They make all the usual arguments in favor of legalization, and Jack sees the potential for a story here. He's now working as a free-lancer and figures that he can meet with these people for a few hours, crank out a story about them and their crusade, and pick up a quick three hundred bucks or so by peddling the story to the Boston Globe.

If only.

Jack drives out into the Middle of Nowhere to meet with the group's leader, Bobby Mullaney, Mullaney's wife and stepson, and Mullaney's current best friend, a creepy sort of a guy who calls himself Coyote. Mullaney and Coyote walk Jack out into the woods and proudly show him their secret marijuana patch. Then, as Jack is driving off back through the woods, someone takes a shot at his truck and the game is afoot. Before long, Jack will be mixed up with a bunch of nasty drug dealers and gangbangers, and that three hundred bucks will be pretty heard-earned, assuming that Jack can survive long enough to write the story and cash the check.

As always in Boyle's novels, the plot is very good and one of the principal strengths of these novels is the sense of place and the people who inhabit it. Boyle knows this territory very well and writes about it beautifully. The relationship between Jack and Roxanne, a social worker who daily deals with horrors of her own is also very well done, and this book should certainly appeal to a broad audience of crime fiction readers.

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