Jeremiah Healey’s Boston-based PI, John Cuddy, is a solid and interesting character. He’s quite like Peter Corris’ “Cliff Hardy” – a military stint (a Military Policeman in Vietnam) followed by time in an insurance company followed by lone-working PI. I read a bunch of them in the early-mid 90s (The Staked Goat, Blunt Darts, etc)
In this novel he’s hired by the lawyer of a man accused of having used a crossbow to kill his wife and their best friends (the other three in the “Foursome” of the title) at a house on a lake in Maine.
Cuddy takes the case, becomes convinced that the client, Steven Shea, has been set up. But by whom? And why? Cuddy clashes with the security chief at Shea’s employer, a big defence contractor.
He said “I’ve checked up on you.”
“So I’m told.”
“I knew a dozen fuck-ups like you in Nam.” He pronounced in to rhyme with ‘Ma’am’. “There wasn’t one of you kept his pants dry once the shit started coming in.”
“I don’t have to check up on you, Dwight. I can picture what life was like for you over there. Desk at the embassy or more likely one of the ‘import’ companies. Little apartment in Saigon, a girl or two on the side, rotated now and then so you didn’t get too badly compromised. Using the black market when it suited you, turning them when it didn’t. Kibitzing on some National Police interrogations, maybe offering a hint or two on where to attach the wires from the telephone crank box. Oh, you’d go out into the bush from time to time, babysat by a Special Forces team or a Ranger recon, but basically you lived pretty much like a corrupt cop from the thirties.”
As I talked, the mottled look came back. I said, “How am I doing?”
a few pages later Cuddy is on the offensive –
“What do you give Shea’s lawyer by way of evidence when he needs to show the jury a credible alternative to Steve as the killer?”
“Whatever I’ve got.”
“Which won’t be diddly, because the competitor theory isn’t for the courtroom, it’s for your customers.”
“You don’t know-”
“You and the rest of the brain trust cooked up the competitor theory so you could slip it to your customers, ever so gently, to keep them on the string and away from the other companies. Only problem is, any competent investigation of the other companies, by me or even by you, would pretty quickly turn up nothing. Zero. So you maintain the viability of the theory by a strategy of not looking for evidence to support it rather than allowing anybody to search for evidence, not find any, and blow the theory out of the water.”
Cuddy’s search then leads him to a bloody confrontation with a tooled-up girl gang, before a return to Maine and… well, no spoilers.
Healey seems not to have written any for quite some time, which is a pity. They’re solid fritterature.