Potshot

Gerry Boyle, Author Putnam Publishing Group $23.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-399-14259-8

Reporter Jack McMorrow, who left New York's rat race for calmer rural Maine, tangles with plotting rural hippies and vicious urban drug dealers in this timely, colorful adventure (his fourth, after Lifeline). At a country-life fair, Jack meets Bobby Mullaney, a vocal advocate of marijuana legalization. Sensing a good freelance story, McMorrow visits the isolated forest home that Bobby shares with his wife, Melanie, her brooding teenage son, Stephen, and an enigmatic, scary friend known as Coyote. Before Jack can write his story, Bobby and Coyote disappear on a trip to meet drug contacts in Massachusetts. Melanie, nervous about cops, calls Jack for help. When he and his resourceful ex-marine buddy, Clair, ask questions, the dealers answer with an assassination attempt. Although local police believe that Bobby has been murdered, Jack rejects their theory. Meanwhile, his lover, social worker Roxanne Masterson, is viciously beaten by child-abusing parents. Jack's romantic dialogue with Roxanne leans too much toward cute repartee, but their relationship strengthens the hero's character. Boyle provides a big cast of quirky down-easters as he authoritatively guides us through the Maine woods. The climactic chase is a stunner. (Mar.)