Thursday, May 16, 2002

Review - First Light: The First Ever Brady Coyne and J.W. Jackson Novel by Philip R. Craig

First Light is an entertaining collaboration between two crime novelists who know Martha's Vineyard well. It is a slow-paced novel but a quick read if you don't get confused by which character is narrating. The first-person narration alternates between the two protagonists for the entire book. Their voices are similar, and a few times I had to refer to the beginning of the chapter to see who was talking, because the timeline between chapters shifts. One chapter does not necessarily pick up where the last one left off.

Author Philip Craig lives on Martha's Vineyard, as does his character J.W. Jackson. The character and the setting have been in 13 previous Philip Craig novels. Author William Tapply of Pepperell, Mass., has written 18 Brady Coyne novels. This is the first collaboration between these two authors.

Retired cop J.W. Jackson lives on the Vineyard with his wife and their two children. In First Light he's been asked to look into a year-old missing person case that a reputable investigation agency has been unable to solve. J.W. isn't looking for work, but the amount of money he is offered persuades him to at least see what he can find out about the missing woman. J.W. is so uninterested in working that he has to keep reminding himself he has a case to solve. He squeezes questioning in between his real priorities of building a tree house with his kids, fishing in the annual Vineyard derby, and helping his wife run the house.

Boston lawyer Brady Coyne is his fellow protagonist in "First Light." Brady plans to mix the business of preparing a will for an elderly client with the pleasure of fishing in the annual Vineyard derby for the first time. Like Jackson, his mind is more on fishing than business. But when Coyne's client has a debilitating stroke two days after he arrives, his business with her must wait; Coyne doesn't call into his office for four days because he's enjoying the late night/early morning fishing and sleeping late into the day.

If you love mysteries and fishing, First Light is for you. J.W. prefers surfcasting, while Brady is a strict fly-fishing fan. J.W. catches fish for meals, while Brady enjoys the sport and does not keep his catches. The contradictions are entertaining and keep the friendship interesting. Fishing at four in the morning sounds on the edge of crazy, but when you realize how beautiful and calming it is to be on the water's edge at "first light," you can at least appreciate the attraction.

First Light is a mildly suspenseful soft crime novel. The mystery of who did it and why lasts for most of the book, because working isn't either character's main focus. I finished the book feeling like I had spent more time with people fishing than solving a mystery. The tale is not edge-of-your-seat gripping, but it's a great way to see Martha's Vineyard without fighting the crowds.

Title: First Light: The First Ever Brady Coyne and J.W. Jackson Novel
Author: Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply
Publisher: Scribner
ISBN: 978-1932112399
Pages: 352
Price: $20.99

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