Promising start for China author’s new sleuth

Posted June 28, 2009, at 7:18 p.m.

“PORT CITY SHAKEDOWN,” by Gerry Boyle, 2009, Down East Books, Camden, hardcover, 240 pages, $24.95.

Gerry Boyle takes a few steps away from what’s comfortable in his latest book.

The China author could have stuck with his popular Jack McMorrow crime novels, but instead he’s developed a promising new series set in Portland and built around Brandon Blake.

Brandon is damaged goods. His mother was lost at sea when he was really young, and he was raised (using the term loosely) by his alcoholic grandmother, who is still in mourning a couple of decades later.

This loner lives on an old wooden cruiser and works as the manager of the boat yard where it’s moored. He’s taking a law-enforcement course at a local community college, and while on a ride-along with the Portland police, he earns the enmity of a cunning convict while breaking up a fight at a funeral.

Still, things are looking up for Brandon as he’s met a girl in his class, Mia, to whom he’s attracted, and feelings seem to be mutual.

However, by opening up a bit, the normally self-contained Brandon has made himself vulnerable, especially to the now-paroled convict, who figures that Brandon owes him something because of the incident at the funeral. He and his none-too-swift buddy start stalking Brandon and Mia.

Also, a shadowy figure from his mother’s past, who supposedly went down with the boat, shows up alive and well in Portland. Brandon hopes to find out answers about his mother from him, but instead just ends up with more questions.

“Port City Shakedown” is a real cat-and-mouse game, as Brandon tries to keep those he loves safe while figuring out a solution to his situation.

In Brandon Blake, Gerry Boyle has created an intriguing new protagonist, one who is just beginning to polish his skills as a sleuth. It should be enjoyable to watch him grow.

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