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.