A private detective investigates the murder of a politician who supported the sanctuary city movement in this third crime novel in a series.
Bill Coine is a former Massachusetts state police homicide detective-turned-private investigator. He’s vacationing with his wife, Jeanie, in the Berkshires when Ted Prescott, the chairperson of the Fairlane, Massachusetts, board of selectmen, is found hanged in the room next door. Coine helps the inexperienced young patrolman who arrives first on the scene by taking photos and giving advice; this annoys police chief Tom Breshetti, who arrives later. The chief seems eager to dismiss the death as a suicide, even though forensic evidence points to murder, so Prescott’s widow hires Coine to investigate. The death is eventually ruled a homicide, possibly with a political motive. Prescott had led the movement to make Fairlane Township a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, and he had an enemy in Jonathan Tanner, a fellow selectman who threatened board members, saying, “God help you both if any member of my family is harmed by a person who is in this country illegally and harbored by this town’s idiotic and unlawful law.” Not long afterward, Tanner’s son died during a carjacking by, as he puts it, “a Mexican who came to Fairlane after being deported three times.” But as Coine delves into the case, he uncovers clues that suggest a very different motive. Tanner is suspected again when another selectman is found murdered. He was killed by a crossbow—a weapon that Tanner is known to possess. When Coine finds that Tanner is being railroaded, he decides to work for the defense team. Only his dogged efforts can bring the real killer to justice.
Hanrahan (A Deadly Recollection: Bullets from Brooklyn, 2018, etc.) is a former Boston trial attorney, and he clearly draws on that experience here, providing his novel with believable law enforcement and courtroom underpinnings. He handles these technical details well, while also ably wrangling a large cast of characters. In addition, he has a good sense of pacing and delivers engaging dialogue throughout. That said, the novel does tend to overpraise Coine as a character; for example, when he constructs a bulletin board of clues and question marks—a staple of TV, movies, and true-crime stories that will be familiar to many readers—Jeanie is said to be “impressed and overwhelmed” by it; she actually applauds. However, aside from supplying Coine with admiration, hot chocolate, and sandwiches, Jeanie is a cipher. Indeed, female characters play no role in the novel’s policing, detection, or jurisprudence, which, as a narrative decision, feels desperately old-fashioned. On the other hand, the topic of immigration couldn’t be more contemporary, even if some readers may disagree with this novel’s take on it; for example, Fairlane is said to have seen a sharp uptick in sexual and other physical assaults after becoming a sanctuary city. However, real-life, peer-reviewed studies have shown that undocumented immigrants aren’t more likely than anyone else to commit violent crimes.
A solid, if slanted, legal thriller.