Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This is the twenty-sixth and last of the books in William G. Tapply's long-running series featuring Boston attorney Brady Coyne, published in 2010, a year after Tapply's death. The series began in 1984 with Death at Charity's Point, and Coyne also appeared in two other novels that Tapply wrote with Philip R. Craig. These two books featured Brady Coyne and Craig's series protagonist, J. W. Jackson, working in tandem.

Coyne did not appear to age much over the twenty-six years, although his ex-wife two sons did grow a bit older. He remained attractive to women and was usually involved in a relationship. While certainly no super-hero, he also remained perfectly capable of holding his own when things got rough.

That did not happen all that often. Brady ran a fairly genteel one-man practice with his long-suffering secretary, Julie, who tried, without much success, to introduce some discipline into Brady's regimen. His clients were mostly older, well-heeled types who came to him seeking advice about their financial matters. Truth to tell, Brady appeared to be much more interested in fishing than in the law and virtually every book found him sneaking away, or at least planning to sneak away from his office for some isolated but inviting fishing stream.

Inevitably, of course, some unusual problem occasionally appeared that required Brady to extricate a client from matters more serious than the usual drafting of a will. In this case, Brady gets a surprise call from Ken Nichols, an old friend and neighbor that he hasn't seen in years. Back in the old days, Brady and his wife Gloria had been close to Ken and his wife, Sharon. But then both couples divorced. Nichols moved away and the four lost contact with each other.

Now Nichols is in town for a convention and asks Brady to meet him for a drink. When they do, Brady senses that Nichols is in some sort of trouble, although Nichols insists that everything is fine. The next evening, Brady gets a call from Nichols' ex-wife, Sharon, who is in Ken's hotel room. Ken has been murdered; Sharon is the logical prime suspect, and she wants Brady to come to the rescue.

He does, in his usual low-key but competent fashion. He guides Sharon through the initial interviews with the police and then sets about trying to determine what actually happened before his client winds up taking the fall for a crime she insists that she did not commit. In and around his efforts to solve the crime, Brady must deal with some family issues of his own and with and old flame who has come back into his life but who seems reluctant to commit fully.

Opening the pages of a Brady Coyne novel was always like meeting an old friend. He was bright and interesting but he was also a regular guy and you could easily imagine sitting down and having a beer with him, talking about fishing or the Red Sox, another of his passions. The settings in these books were very well drawn; the plots were engaging and the action did not require a significant suspension of disbelief. A fan who has followed Brady Coyne through all of these adventures reads the last paragraphs of Outwitting Trolls with a profound sense of regret. Brady Coyne and William G. Tapply will both be missed.

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