cover image Straw Man: A Jack McMorrow Mystery

Straw Man: A Jack McMorrow Mystery

Gerry Boyle. Islandport, $24.95 (334p) ISBN 978-1-939017-93-2

Boyle’s engrossing 11th Jack McMorrow Mystery (after 2015’s Once Burned) opens in the woods of Waldo County, Maine, with the freelance reporter and his friends, Clair and Louis, getting into a fight with men illegally harvesting lumber from an old woman’s land. The thieves lose the brawl, but they vow retribution and start stalking Jack’s family. Jack responds with force, escalating the feud and driving a wedge between him and his wife, Roxanne, a social worker who’s passionate about peaceful conflict resolution and fears that Jack is setting a poor example for their daughter, Sophie. Deftly drawn characters and a strong sense of place add texture and depth to this gritty tale of rural crime and vigilante justice. Jack and Roxanne’s marital strife imbues even otherwise mundane scenes with tension, and Jack’s journalistic research into Old Order Mennonites and private gun sales paves the way for thoughtful discussions regarding religion, faith, and the cycle of violence. Ample action drives the story toward a pat but otherwise gratifying conclusion. (May)