When you’re a retired law enforcement officer and your last name is Coffin, it would seem only natural that the next step would be to write a police procedural, and Bruce Robert Coffin has done just that with Among the Shadows. Auntie M couldn’t help but be reminded of Gwendolyn Butler’s John Coffin Mysteries, but these couldn’t be farther from the handsome English detective surrounded by theater friends.
This Coffin has created a very different detective, even as he gets his Portland, Maine setting down just right. He captures the rhythm and politics of the detective force and its team, too. Then the veteran homicide detective gives readers an intriguing main character in Detective Sergeant John Byron, a man who has the true detective’s dedication to the Job, despite the costs.
The son of a detective who committed suicide, Byron’s at a crossroads in his life. His marriage has disintegrated and he sunk into drinking too much. Coffin avoids veering into cliche’ by having Bryon acknowledge this and actually do something about it, a refreshing character change that makes Byron all the more interesting with this determined inner strength when he’s caught up in the current case.
It starts with the deaths of two former Portland PD members, and at first it’s only Byron who sees a connection when a photo surfaces that contains an old team of law enforcement officers who formed a Special Reaction Team–and Coffin’s father was one of that team.
With a loyal team assisting him who each have their own area of expertise, Byron will fight his superiors to connect the deaths. He insists the team members are being killed off for their connection to an old case where robbers got away with over a million dollars with the money never being recovered. One of the four robbers disappeared, while the other three were shot on scene, as was a member of the police team. It’s long been thought that the missing robber has the proceeds.
Coffin will have to fight some of his superiors every day, despite his lieutenant trying to give him the autonomy he needs to set his team where they need to be headed. He’s thwarted in particular by the Chief and Assistant Chief, and as the case heats up, trailed everywhere by a young investigative reporter out to build a name for himself who manages to get in his way.
The pace is kept taut, and the closer the team gets to resolving these cases, the more danger the team find themselves in. Before it’s over, there will be surprises that will keep readers wanting to figure out this twisted case as much as John Byron himself.
An intriguing debut from a storyteller to watch, Coffin has already made a name for himself as an artist. He paints everything from portraits to landscapes, but the piece Auntie M was most intrigued to read about is a work titled “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.” The commissioned portrait commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and depicts Special Agent Edwin C. Shanahan, the first agent ever killed in the line of duty. The portrait is currently on display in the Boston field office of the FBI.
Coffin is a talented writer to watch~