After 20 cases starring Boston lawyer Brady Coyne (Shadow of Death, 2003, etc.), Tapply introduces a more outdoorsy, elemental Down East detective.
Stoney Calhoun knows he was named after Stonewall Jackson and grew up in Beaumont, South Carolina, but he doesn’t know much else about his past. A lightning bolt, if that’s really what it was, left him deaf in one ear, unable to drink alcohol, and pretty much devoid of memories before a stint in the veterans’ hospital that ended when he followed an obscure sense that he was being called home to rural Maine. Moving swiftly to put down roots, he got a job in Kate Balaban’s bait-and-tackle shop and commenced the world’s most discreet affair with his boss, unmolested except by the occasional inquisitive emissary of Uncle Sam. All that changes the day Fred Green, a blowhard from Key Largo, appears in Kate’s looking for a guide. Disliking him on sight, Stoney palms him off instead on grad student Lyle McMahan, then suffers the tortures of the damned when both men disappear and Lyle turns up dead. Despite Kate’s protests, he insists on helping York County Sheriff Dickman with his slow-moving investigation and ends up endangering himself and everyone he’s closest to.
Though the mystery is slight and the windup unsatisfying, it’s wonderful to see Tapply get out of the city and into an altogether different kind of time that suits his unhurried storytelling perfectly.