In this debut novel, a Cape Cod cop’s homecoming takes a deadly turn when a Secret Service agent ends up murdered and an assassination plot is discovered before the U.S. president’s vacation visit.
Who says you can’t go home again? Pepper Ryan was the former “wonderboy” of the New Albion Police Department. But three years ago, a disastrous bust gone awry compelled him to quit the force, grab his guitar, and head for Austin, Los Angeles, and Nashville. No sooner does he return home and rejoin the department than a dead Secret Service agent is found on the beach in a clambake pit with a red starfish on his chest. “Back in uniform two days and the kooky shit’s already started,” a veteran officer greets Pepper. And it shows no signs of letting up as the president plans to come to New Albion to hit up a dying but disenchanted billionaire backer for continued financial support. The unpopular president’s imminent arrival brings out the cranks and protesters and one very credible assassination threat. Pepper, who knows the area and the locals, is assigned to collaborate with the Secret Service. He works in the shadows of his retired father, the former chief of police, and his brother, “the finest young homicide detective in Boston in the last twenty years” until he is gunned down trying to foil a robbery. As for Pepper, his fellow officers have started a pool to bet how long his current tenure with the force will last. There’s nothing like a good redemption story to launch a series of procedural thrillers. But while Pepper is looking for a chance to prove himself, he doesn’t quite fit the pulp profile; he’s young, he’s handsome, and he’s not divorced, an alcoholic, or in thrall to any vices. Except for the previous flameout, he seems to be a good cop. Fagan doesn’t push a hard-boiled tone. He has a good ear for dialogue and a vivid sense of place, which he has populated with memorable and credible characters, including Pepper’s high school flame—a jet-setter whose father is the ailing benefactor hosting the president—and the two hit men who are adding to the area body count as well as old friends and new enemies who have the hero in their sights.
An entertaining and compulsively readable thriller—on the beach or anywhere.