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Once Burned
Jack McMorrow #10
Gerry Boyle

Islandport Press
May 2015/ ISBN
Mystery / Maine Contemporary. Licensed Investigator/Reporter

Reviewed by LJ Roberts


First Sentence: He bought the wick online from a candle-supply shop in Houston, calling the people up first to ask which type of wick burned the hottest.

The body of a woman, with a large burn scar on one side of her face, is found in a local forest. With no way to identify her, the police release her photo to the media asking for the public’s help.

Money is tight, in the McMorrow family, now that Jack and Roxanne have a daughter, Roxanne is no longer working as a social worker, and they have to depend on the free-lance stories Jack sells to the New York Times and other outlets. An arson fire in the small town of Sanctuary just might prove the story Jack needs. Rather than being a single incident, it quickly becomes clear that someone has an agenda, and the town is happy to accuse those who are most vulnerable. Roxanne finds she can’t separate from her old job as much as she’d planned when she, and her family, are threatened by the drug-addicted mother whose child died when placed in foster care.

There’s nothing like a strong opening, and Boyle starts us off with a very frightening, yet compelling, prologue, immediately followed by a beginning which guarantees impending disaster.

Boyle has created a cast of characters we what to know on an ongoing basis. As well as Jack and Roxanne, he has also created one of the most appealing, least annoying, children in Sofie. Then there are their neighbors and friends Mary and her husband, Clair, the ex-Marine Commando who always has Jack’s back. Additionally, there are secondary characters who are fully developed and hold their own.

The dialogue is excellent. It flows very naturally and is appropriate to the characters and their relationships. “Are you going to return our firearms?” Clair said. “What if I don’t?” Foley said. “I’ll have to back to the house and get some more.” Clair said. There are also good lessons to be learned about how much control one does, and does not, have and where one’s responsibilities ends, as well as providing those moments that cause one to stop and consider…”Every society has a warrior class. Without that we have anarchy. You’d see way more suffering, way more carnage. We fight to keep humanity from going totally crazy. Somebody has to step up.” Even if way may not completely agree with the philosophy, it does cause one to think. Boyle is an author who knows how to convey emotions and people reactions to tension and stress.

Once Burned is a very good book with excellent tension all the way through.


Reviewed 2015