Tag Archives: Matt Coyle

‘Lost Tomorrows,’ by Matt Coyle

“Rick, you seem like an intense, but decent, fellow.” He looked at me with cop eyes. Military, civilian, they all looked the same. Asking questions in silence. “From the looks of the bump on your head and your black eyes I’m guessing you recently sustained a concussion and are probably still in pain. But you’ve never shown evidence of it. Your eyes stay targeted on that screen. Not just intense, but manic. You’re focused on a mission. Tunneled in. I’ve seen it in enlisted men and COs. I’m worried you’ve lost your peripheral vision. You’re target blind. Blind to everything but your target. Like a zealot. That’s a dangerous way to live, Rick.”

I’ve had a feeling, all through Matt Coyle’s fascinating but troubling Rick Cahill series of mysteries, that the whole project was working up to some kind of epic climax. Along the way, a lot of bad stuff happened, and some of the books were pretty heartbreaking. But I think this last book, Lost Tomorrows, makes it all well worth it (though another Rick Cahill book is coming out down the line. But that one will have an altered scenario, for reasons that will become clear to anyone who finishes this one).

Rick Cahill lives in La Jolla, California, where he grew up and his father was a cop (disgraced, though now cleared posthumously by his son). But Rick’s own short police career was in Santa Barbara. There his wife was murdered and he was arrested for it. The case was dropped, but Rick was kicked off the force anyway. And, for reasons he tells no one, he blames himself for her death anyway.

A call from Santa Barbara persuades Rick to go back after all these years. Krista Landingham, the policewoman who trained him, has been killed by a car in a hit-and-run pedestrian accident. Krista’s sister Leah asks him to come up for the funeral. Rick knows he has only enemies on the Santa Barbara force, but he feels obligated to pay his respects. Just as he paid his respects at his wife’s funeral, in a church filled with devout enemies.

He only plans to attend the service and go home, but Leah Landingham asks to speak with him. She doesn’t believe Krista’s death was an accident. She was working on a big case, and there was no reason except work for her to have been in that place at that time.

Rick tries to explain that he’s the worst person in the world to do this job. Every cop in Santa Barbara hates his guts. Leah replies that she’s actually already hired the retired policeman (now a private investigator) who arrested Rick. He is now convinced Rick was innocent, and is willing to work with him – though he still holds a grudge.

This is actually the kind of situation Rick can’t resist. Full of self-hatred, he thrives on hostile environments. He will soon discover that Krista had been working on his wife’s cold case. Is it possible she was getting close to the truth, to uncovering the true culprit? Was she killed for that? Rick will endure pretty much anything to learn the answer to that question, and then he plans to exact his own brand of justice.

Rick has always followed his father’s rule, to do right, even if it goes against the law. But what if his reasoning is off? What if he doesn’t know what’s right?

Lost Tomorrows is a gripping, explosive book full of dread and moral complexity, ending with a shocker that’s nevertheless quite satisfying. I particularly liked the way the story questioned subjective judgments.

Cautions for intense violence. I didn’t notice much (or any) objectionable language. Occasional references to Christianity were respectful.

‘Wrong Light,’ by Matt Coyle

I’d noticed the car when I’d arrived three hours earlier. A buddy in high school had owned a similar Camaro without the stripes. We’d loved the car and marveled how something built ten years before we were born could be as cool as we were. I haven’t been cool for twenty years, but the ʼ69 Camaro still is.

Plowing through Matt Coyle’s dark mystery series about Rick Cahill, guilt-ridden, self-destructive private eye in La Jolla, California.

In Wrong Light, Rick is hired by a local radio station manager to protect his station’s big star – Naomi Hendrix, a sultry-voiced nighttime talk show host. Naomi turns out (surprisingly) to be as beautiful as she sounds, but she shuns the public eye. And she’s adamant that the police should not be told about the threatening messages she’s gotten. She has a secret past, and she keeps it close.

At the same time, a Russian Mafia assassin to whom Rick owes a favor instructs him to start a nighttime surveillance. It interferes with his job, but you don’t say no to these people. He knows they’re using him as a pawn in some rotten scheme, and he’ll need to figure out what’s going on before he finds himself the fall guy.

And just when he thinks Naomi Hendrix’s stalker is probably harmless, a girl disappears and Rick’s suspicions begin proving horribly true.

This will not end well.

Things work out okay in some ways, pretty awful in others. I’d list Wrong Light as one of the darker books in this dark series. But I’m sticking with it. I’m really concerned now to see what will happen next.

‘Blood Truth,’ by Matt Coyle

I’m finding Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill mystery series fascinating. Rick Cahill, La Jolla, California private eye, possesses an excellent Raymond Chandler-style narrator’s voice. His essentially pessimistic world view is mitigated by the suffering he’s endured. A lot of that suffering is self-inflicted, because he still blames himself for the death of his wife. She was murdered, but not by him. Nevertheless, she’d still be alive if he hadn’t made one big mistake.

Another memory that eats at him is of his father. Rick’s father was a policeman in La Jolla, an upright and respected man. But he was thrown off the force for corruption, and crawled into a bottle to die. Rick can’t forgive himself for rejecting his dad at the end, but also deeply resents him for his failures.

At the start of Blood Truth, the new owner of Rick’s boyhood home discovers a hidden safe in a wall and invites him to come pick it up. Rick has the safe opened by a locksmith and finds three items in it – a “Saturday Night Special” pistol with two bullets fired, an envelope full of money, and the key to a safe deposit box. When Rick locates the box the key fits, he finds it contains two spent .25 caliber cartridges, suitable to the gun in the safe.

Rick’s code is inflexible – he means to find out what all this means. He assumes it’s evidence of his father’s corruption. It doesn’t matter – the truth needs to come out. People tend to get hurt when Rick goes on crusades like this, and he’ll be sorry about that later. But the truth, first and last.

Meanwhile, Rick’s old girlfriend Kim, for whom he still has feelings, asks him to follow her husband. She thinks he’s having an affair. It turns out to be more than that – the husband’s not just in bed with another woman, he’s “in bed” with some of the most dangerous people in the state, way over his head in a shady business deal going murderous. But you can’t scare Rick off – he’s the kind of tough guy who’ll sneak out of the hospital while being treated for a knife wound, bringing his saline bag with him.

No Rick Cahill story is optimistic, but this was one of the more hopeful in the series. There’s a long narrative arc playing out through these books, as Rick faces down his old personal devils one by one. The total effect is positive. I recommend Blood Truth, if you can handle the dark atmosphere.

‘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.