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Port City Crossfire
Brandon Blake # 1
BY Gerry Boyle

ePublishing Works
Aug 2019/ ISBN
Mystery /Police Procedural / Contemporary / Portland, Maine

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: Mid-September, not quite fall but the Maine summer slipping away.

It's every policeman's nightmare. Officer Brandon Blake becomes involved in a foot chase with a suspect known as Thrasher who is wearing a Go-Pro camera and holding a gun. Blake is forced to shoot but forgot to turn on his camera and the suspect's Go-Pro memory stick gone. Thatch's wealthy parents, his girlfriend Amanda, and the community are out for Blake's job and his freedom. But being suspended doesn't stop Brandon from following his instincts as he finds the high-school diary of Danni Moulton which leads him into danger from her boyfriend Clutch.

This is a first chapter that really works. You meet the principal characters, learn a bit about their life, and, true to the life of a cop, go from low intensity to very high intensity in the blink of an eye realizing just how a bad situation can happen and the reaction afterward. Boyle makes it real and painful.

One quickly becomes aware of why Boyle's writing is so good. It's refreshing to have a police officer who isn't hardened and cynical, who feels the impact of their action, who doesn't shrug and walk away but has a very human reaction including self-doubt. And the victim's parents: Boyle knows how to depict raw emotion.

Brandon does get himself into situations. An excellent description of him is given--"I know your type, my friend. Once you get on to something, you don't let go. You ride it into the ground even if you do down with it." All of Boyle's characters are effective. Kat, Brandon's partner is a good, strong character and an excellent balance to Brandon as she sees through him and doesn't pull any punches. His personal partner, Mia, is someone one may particularly come to like. And then there's Matthew Estusa, the classic gotcha'-style reporter who'll do whatever it takes for a story is certainly someone who is recognizable.

Twists and threads: the plot twists are very well done and effective; sometimes shocking. "Friggin' A, Blake, ... Is there anything you don't wind up in the middle of?" The number of threads counts up to where one finds oneself thinking 'here is another thread to pull.'

As the threads begin to weave together, the danger and suspense increase. The plot did seem over-complicated, a twist that was a bit too convenient and a move that, especially for a cop, crept into the realm of being a bit TSTL (too stupid to live). However, those were small things and were easily forgiven in light of there being a great climax and an excellent line toward the end.

Although the book is listed as A Brandon Black Mystery, Book 1, that's not strictly accurate as this is the third book in the series following "Port City Shakedown" and "Port City Black and White," both published by Down East Books. It's worth going back to the beginning.

"Port City Crossfire" is a well-done police procedural. It has a tone different from others one might read, and a protagonist who is both complex and compelling. Boyle walks more on the noir side of the street, but in a very restrained way. There is something rather addictive about his writing.

Reviewed 2020