cover image Dead Winter

Dead Winter

William G. Tapply, William G. Tappley. Delacorte Press, $16.95 (230pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29711-0

The eighth superior mystery featuring Boston lawyer-sleuth Brady Coyne ( The Dutch Blue Error et al.) begins as a pleasant medium-boiled yarn but ends as a shocking tale of secret horror. Coyne is called in the middle of the night by his long-time client Desmond Winter, a retired Unitarian minister in Newburyport. Maggie, ex-stripper and wife of Des's semi-ne'er-do-well son Marc, has been found on Des's fishing boat, beaten to death. Although Marc isn't arrested, he's clearly the prime suspect, especially since he and Maggie had an ``open'' marriage. Next a lawyer from North Carolina is murdered in a local motel; then another murder strikes Marc closer to home. Behind everything lies the 17-year-old disappearance of Des's wife Connie and its devastating effect on Marc and his sister Kat. A further complication is the affair that seems to be brewing between Coyne and Kat. The plot takes some gothic turns--bastardy, incest, an earlier violent death--but Tapply never neglects his nicely defined characterizations or loses his cool control over narrative tension in this very satisfying caper. Mystery GMystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (May)