Monday, November 16, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Dark Tiger by William G. Tapply

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Dark Tiger by William G. Tapply. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Dark Tiger by William G. Tapply

by
A Stoney Calhoun Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37978-1 (0312379781)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37978-0 (9780312379780)
Publication Date: September 2009
List Price: $24.99

Review: The late William G. Tapply, author of the long-running Brady Coyne mysteries, began a new series in 2004 featuring the enigmatic Stoney Calhoun, a man who has no memory of his past. The third mystery in this series, Dark Tiger, gives additional hints as to who he may have been, but sadly, the readers of his adventures are destined, like Stoney himself, to learn no more.

Stoney is surprised to be told that the lease on the bait and tackle shop he runs with Kate Balaban has been terminated. There seems to be little he can do; the owner isn't interested in having them as tenants and wants them out by the end of the following month. Shortly thereafter, someone known to Stoney only as the "Man in the Suit" arrives, asking for Stoney's help. He makes it clear Stoney has no choice by saying he can "fix" the lease problem. "Thank the Man in the Suit," Stoney says to himself. "He created the problem, just to show me that he could, and then he solved it." Stoney agrees to meet with a Mr. Brescia, who clearly knew Stoney from before he lost his memory. "Our operatives have a good deal of latitude. Our system is unique among government agencies. We select our people for their intelligence and initiative and resourcefulness, we train them thoroughly, and then we trust them and support them," Mr. Brescia says. "Doesn't that ring any bells with you, Stoney? I've just described your career with us." One of Brescia's operatives, posing as a guest at a luxury fishing lodge in northern Maine, has been found murdered and Mr. Brescia wants Stoney to find out why. For starters, his death is also mysterious: he was already dead when someone shot him. Stoney is to take his place, and discover whatever it was that got the man killed.

Stoney Calhoun has a kind of quiet strength about him that is reflected in the writing of Dark Tiger. He speaks simply but with authority, his movements deliberate and spare, without unnecessary action. The story gives the impression of being slow at first, with little seeming to occur, yet the first 100 pages just fly by. Once Stoney is at the lodge, as a temporary guide for which he is eminently qualified, he stirs things up as he might while hunting partridge, by "shaking every bush and kicking every clump of grass." He achieves his goal, identifying who killed the operative and the reason for his murder, but the plot here is somewhat implausible and raises a few more questions than it answers. Still, given how well Dark Tiger is written, the solid characters and descriptive setting, it's well worth accompanying Stoney on this, his final journey.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Dark Tiger for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Buy from Amazon.com

If you are interested in purchasing Dark Tiger from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Seven years ago, Stoney Calhoun woke up in a VA hospital with no memories and a series of unexplained talents (language ability, weapons expertise, etc.). Since then he’s been living quietly, working as a part time fishing guide and co-owner of a local bait shop—with an unnamed visitor coming around occasionally to see if he’s regained any memories.

But this time, the visitor shows up looking for his help—and creating potential mayhem in Stoney’s life to prove he’s serious. In exchange for making those problems go away, Stoney must go to the far corner of Maine, sign on as a guide at a high end fishing lodge, and look into a couple of suspicious deaths. A government "operative" was found shot dead in a staged murder/suicide pact involving a local sixteen year old girl. Now Stoney has to uncover what the dead agent was investigating and got him killed—without being killed by the very same people.

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