‘Dark Fissures,’ by Matt Coyle

Rick Cahill, the hero of Matt Coyle’s downbeat detective series set in the San Diego area, is back in Dark Fissures. I like Coyle’s writing a lot, but this was going to be the series’ last chance with me as a reader. Rick has such hard luck (except for mere survival), loses so many friends, makes so many mistakes and beats himself up so much for them, that I was about to give up on it. If Rick didn’t catch a break in this book, I was going to stop reading.

I’m happy to report that (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler) Rick actually has a little good fortune this time out. Won’t tell you what.

As Dark Fissures begins, Rick is about to lose his home. He isn’t making enough money as a PI to meet his mortgage payments. Also, the chief of police, his personal enemy, is hinting that he has new evidence linking Rick to a murder. Problem is, Rick did commit the murder – in a good cause. But that won’t earn him any slack from the cops or the courts.

Then he gets a call from Brianne Colton, a local country singer. Brianne’s ex-husband, a former Navy SEAL, was recently found hanged in his home, an apparent suicide. But Brianne believes he was murdered. Some things about it make no sense to her, especially the disappearance of his cell phone.

Rick is dubious. Such doubts are common among the bereaved, and usually they’re just wishful thinking. On top of that, Brianne has an ulterior motive. Her husband’s life insurance policy won’t pay off on suicide. But the more he asks questions, the more he starts to think Brianne might be right. He’s getting hinky reactions from the guy’s friends and co-workers when he questions them. Something’s wrong.

There’s something wrong, too, about falling in love with your client, but that’s just one mistake in a long list for Rick. He will get beaten up, wounded, and tortured before he finally fights his way through to the truth.

Dark Fissures was no sunshine story, but it came out a little more hopefully than the previous books. I liked it. Author Coyle has a continuing problem with homophone confusion, though. “Heal” for “heel” and “swap” for “swab,” that sort of thing. I wish he’d get a better proofreader.

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