Tag Archives: Matt Coyle

‘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.

‘Night Tremors,’ by Matt Coyle

There had to be something in me that liked it this way. Something crooked that I couldn’t make straight. Or didn’t want to.

The saga of Rick Cahill continues in Matt Coyle’s Night Tremors. Our haunted La Jolla hero is no longer managing a restaurant. He’s doing something more suitable to his talents – working for an old friend’s private investigation agency.

But that job mostly involves sneaking photos of adulterers, not a pursuit nourishing to the soul. So when a lawyer approaches him with a case involving undoing an old injustice, Rick takes a leave of absence. Eight years ago, Randall Eddington was convicted of the murder of his parents and sister. Ever since he has stoutly maintained his innocence. Now the lawyer has turned up a witness, a genial stoner who says he heard a motorcycle gang leader boast of committing the crime himself. He even said where he’d thrown the murder weapon. If that weapon can be located, it will be enough to get Randall a new trial. Rick’s job is to look for corroborating evidence, and to keep an eye on the witness’s safety.

Rick takes the case up with a sense of mission. This is what he’d become a cop to do, back when he was a cop. The motorcycle gang is a dangerous one, with even more dangerous connections in organized crime. And the corrupt La Jolla police department, now headed by his old nemesis, is particularly determined that one of their proudest solved cases should remain solved.

But this case is about more than that. Rick is a man who can’t be satisfied with easy answers. His compulsion to tie up every loose end will lead him where nobody wants him to go. And some people will go to any lengths to keep the secrets that remain covered up.

As was the case with Yesterday’s Echo, the first book in the series, the writing in Night Tremors is very good indeed. Rick Cahill is an intriguing character who draws your sympathy. The plotting is relentless.

My only real complaint here is the same as it was for that book – it’s really gloomy. I’m planning to continue with the next entry in the series, but I plead with the author – give us a little hope, please! If Rick’s luck doesn’t turn a little, I’ll have trouble comprehending why he just doesn’t commit suicide. And you’ll lose me as a reader.

‘Yesterday’s Echo,’ by Matt Coyle

I recognized the house from my infrequent trips up to the cross at the top of the Mount Soledad. Unassuming from the front, its backside hung off a cliff, splayed out like a giant glass-and-copper crab ready to pounce.

I think it was President Truman who said, “If you want a friend, get a dog.”

That might be the motto of Rick Cahill, hero of Matt Coyle’s hard-boiled California mystery series, of which Yesterday’s Echo is the first installment.

Rick’s life has been a series of betrayals. First when his policeman father, whom he worshiped, was thrown off the force for corruption. Then, after he himself became a cop, trying to restore the family honor, his wife was killed and he was blamed. He was never convicted, but he was fired, losing all his friends but one. That’s his old buddy Rusty, who runs a steakhouse and bar in La Jolla. Rick manages it now, and studiously keeps away from most relationships and anybody’s problems. He spends quality time with his black Labrador, Midnight, and that’s enough for now.

Until Melody Malana, a beautiful TV news reporter, walks into the bar and is accosted by a couple drunks. Rick steps in to protect her, and they begin a relationship – the first one Rick has really cared about since his wife died.

Then a couple of guys surprise him and beat him up, demanding to know where Melody is. And Melody is arrested for murder. Rick goes back into cop mode to try to clear her, but only manages to become the subject of an arrest warrant himself. The (corrupt) La Jolla police department is taking its orders from very high places, and Rick is working against the clock and very short of friends.

I mentioned narrative voice in hard-boiled fiction in a recent review. For me, that Philip Marlowe voice, slightly scratchy from cigarettes in one’s imagination, is almost a necessary element of hard-boiled. I’m sure good hard-boiled in the third person has been produced, but I like that imaginary voice-over. Rick Cahill has an excellent hard-boiled voice. I took to him from the start. The writing was crisp and evocative in the classic Chandler style.

My main reservation is that this book is very dark, and presents a world with very little hope in it. I enjoyed reading Yesterday’s Echo, but it left me sad.

Oddly enough, I didn’t notice much objectionable language. There were a couple misspelled words.