Shadow of Death

Outwitting Trolls by
William G. Tapply
(Minotaur, $24.99, V) ISBN 978-0-312-53127-0
Brady Coyne, Boston attorney, is surprised to get a call from an old friend and neighbor, Ken Nichols. He has not seen or heard from Ken for at least ten years, although at one time Brady and Ken and their respective families shared many enjoyable moments. Now both men are divorced and while Brady still lives in the Boston area Ken is in Baltimore continuing his practice of veterinary medicine.

Ken called Brady ostensibly because he was in town attending a conference on veterinary science. The two agree to get together for drinks. Not much of substance is exchanged but Brady feels that Ken seems distracted and ill at ease. At one point he excuses himself to answer his cell phone. A brief exchange ensues, and Ken again excuses himself and moves across the room. Brady watches as Ken confers with a man for a few minutes. They part and as Ken moves away, the man takes his finger and mimics shooting Brady with it. Ken returns to the table. Brady senses something unpleasant has happened and offers his services both as a friend and a lawyer. Ken thanks him, but shrugs him off. Their meeting comes to an end and they part, Brady reminding his friend that he will always be there if he is needed.

The next evening Brady gets a call from Sharon Nichols, Kenís ex-wife. She sounds terrified. She is in her ex-husbandís hotel room where she was to meet him .She has discovered him dead, shot to death. She wants to retain Brady as her lawyer and needs to know what to do next. Brady tells her to get out of the room immediately and call the police. He is on his way to the hotel and will assist her in talking to the police. Unfortunately, but understandably Sharon does not follow Bradyís advice and is in said hotel room when he arrives. And, of course, things only get worse.

Outwitting Trolls is a plot driven novel and a reasonably well constructed one. The reader is immediately drawn into the story, needing to have the obvious questions answered. Who was the man Ken met the night before? Why was Sharon meeting Ken in his hotel room after having been divorced for so many years? Why did she happen to contact Brady for help?

The characters invite sympathy and empathy. They are ordinary people caught up in an unreal situation. They act as one might expect them to act. Some of Bradyís own family problems become a subplot in the story and it is easy to see what went wrong with Bradyís marriage, through no real fault of his or his wife extending the readerís feeling of empathy. Ken and Sharon are more flawed individuals than Brady and his ex-wife though they evoke some degree of empathy as well.

This novel will unfortunately be the last in the Brady Coyne series as the author died in 2009. With this fact in mind, it may be that Mr. Tapply may have produced a more polished, intricate novel had he lived a little longer to tinker with it. The book is short and there is one obvious inconsistency in the behavior of one of the characters which at once produces a red herring, but invites criticism on the readerís part. Nonetheless, the novel is a thought provoking read as well as one of those novels that gets and keeps your attention from the very first page and keeps it until the final word is read.

--Andy Plonka

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