GUEST POST and EXCERPT
Among the Shadows
(Detective Byron Mystery Series Book 1)
(Detective Byron Mystery Series Book 1)
by Bruce Robert Coffin
Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Fall in Portland, Maine usually arrives as a welcome respite from summer’s sweltering temperatures and, with the tourists gone, a return to normal life - usually. But when a retired cop is murdered, things heat up quickly, setting the city on edge.
Detective Sergeant John Byron, a second-generation cop, is tasked with investigating the case - at the very moment his life is unraveling. On the outs with his department’s upper echelon, separated from his wife, and feeling the strong pull of the bottle, Byron remains all business as he tries to solve the murder of one of their own. And when another ex-Portland PD officer dies under suspicious circumstances, he quickly realizes there’s much more to these cases than meets the eye. The closer Byron gets to the truth, the greater the danger for him and his fellow detectives.
This taut, atmospheric thriller will appeal to fans of Michael Connelly and John Sandford.
The bitter stench of urine and impending death permeated the small dingy bedroom. Hawk stood next to the bed, looking down at O’Halloran. The ancient warrior lay withered and gaunt. Patches of dull white hair clung to his age-spotted scalp. Eyes, once calculating and sharp, were now yellowed and dim. O’Halloran was dying.
Hawk moved quickly, snatching the pillow from beneath the old man’s head. He covered O’Halloran’s face and pressed down firmly, his well-developed forearms flexed.
O’Halloran thrashed about, nearly toppling the chrome IV stand, but Hawk caught it easily. Muffled screams vibrated up through the pillow. He held fast as O’Halloran’s bony legs slid back and forth like eels under the coverlet, kicking the sheet free on one side. Hawk closed his eyes, attempting to block out the image before him. The old man’s feeble struggles, no match for Hawk’s strength, tapered off, then ceased.
In the next room a clock chimed, shattering the silence and signifying that the hour was at hand.
Warily, Hawk lifted the pillow. The warrior was gone. O’Halloran’s eyes were lifeless and wide, projecting a silent narration of shock and fear. He closed them with a gentle hand, smoothed the disheveled hair, then fluffed the pillow and restored it to its rightful place. Lastly, he slid the old man’s bony white foot back under the sheet and retucked the bedding.
Standing upright, he surveyed the room. Everything appeared in its proper place. O’Halloran looked serene, like he’d simply fallen asleep. Satisfied, Hawk walked from the room.
Detective Sergeant John Byron parked his unmarked Taurus behind a black-and-white cruiser. Neither the heat nor humidity were helping his foul mood. Only seven-thirty in the morning and the temperature displayed atop Congress Street’s fourteen-story Chapman Building already read eighty-four degrees. Though September had nearly passed, summer wasn’t quite ready to release the city from her sweltering grasp.
Portland autumns were normally cool and comfortable. Normally. Tourists returned to whichever godforsaken corner of the globe they had come, kids returned to the classroom, and the days grew increasingly shorter.
Byron’s poor attitude had more to do with the day of the week than the weather. Wednesdays always put him in a bad mood, because it was the day Chief of Police Michael Stanton held his weekly CompStat meeting, a statistical midweek tough-mudder designed to give the upper echelon an opportunity to micromanage. Today’s administrative migraine was accompanied by one of Byron’s own creation. He knew of no better cure than a little hair of the dog, but nothing would land him in hot water with Lieutenant LeRoyer faster than the scent of Irish on his breath. Instead, he opted for the mystical healing properties of ibuprofen and caffeine, with a breath mint chaser. He closed his eyes and swallowed the pills on a wave of black coffee, pausing a moment before giving up the solitude of his car. On his game as always, in spite of his current condition.
Officer Sean Haggerty sat behind the wheel of another police cruiser, parked further down the street under a shady canopy of maples. The veteran officer was speaking with a young auburn-haired woman. Byron guessed she was the nurse, primarily because she wasn’t in hysterics, as most relatives would’ve been. He was pleased to see Hags on the call. Hags did things by the numbers. The same could not be said of every beat cop. They exchanged nods as Byron headed up the driveway.
A skinny uniformed rookie stood sentry at the side door to the Bartley Street home. Byron knew they’d crossed paths before, but couldn’t recall his name. What had once been a phenomenon was occurring with far greater frequency, a clear indication the cops were either getting younger or he wasn’t.
“Morning, Sarge,” the rookie said as he recorded Byron’s name into the crime scene log.
“O’Donnell,” Byron said after stealing a glance at the name tag. He gestured with his thumb toward the street. “That the nurse with Haggerty?”
“E.T. Pelligrosso and Detective Joyner. First floor, back bedroom.”
Evidence Technician Gabriel Pelligrosso, a young, flat-topped, ex-soldier, was known for being methodical, thorough, and dependable, traits Byron’s own father had harped on. “If every cop on the job had those qualities, sonny boy, it’d be a sorry fuckin’ day to be a criminal.” Byron stepped inside.
The odor assaulted him upon entering the kitchen. An all too familiar blend of bladder and excremental expulsion, which, thanks to the humidity, would undoubtedly linger in the fabric of his clothing all day.
He listened to their footsteps on the hardwood floor along with the occasional click of Pelligrosso’s camera as they recorded the scene. Not wanting to interrupt them, he waited in the kitchen, making mental notes of everything he saw.
A 2015 Norman Rockwell calendar depicting several boys and a dog running past a No Swimming sign hung on the wall beside the refrigerator. Notations had been made with a red pen in what resembled the flowery script of a woman, perhaps the nurse. The days of the month had been crossed off up to the twenty-third. Someone had been here yesterday. Maybe a family member or one of the nurses. He’d check with Hags.
“Sarge, you out there?” Diane called from down the hall.
Diane Joyner, Portland’s first female African-American detective, was a tough-talking New Yorker. Tall and attractive, she’d lulled more than one bad guy into thinking he could get over on her. Prior to arriving in Portland, she’d worked homicides in the Big Apple for seven years. Byron didn’t know if it was her confidence or thoroughness that made some of the other officers insecure about working with her, but those very same traits made Diane his first choice for partner on murder cases.
“Just waiting on you,” Byron said.
“We’re all set in here.”
Byron walked down the hall and entered the bedroom. “What’ve we got?”
“One stinky stiff,” Diane said. “Formerly Mr. James O’Halloran.”
“O’Halloran?” he asked. Byron had known a James O’Halloran. Was this the same man? The emaciated corpse lying in the bed bore little resemblance to the squared-away Portland police lieutenant from his memory. “Did we find an ID?”
Diane handed him an expired Maine driver’s license. The photo, taken seven years and at least a hundred pounds ago, was definitely Jimmy O. The same man who had sat beside him in the church, on the worst day of Byron’s life.
Praise for the Book
"Compulsively readable, Among the Shadows is that rare cop novel that’s chock full of blood-and-guts detail while taking you on a ride of a lifetime." ~ Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins
"Bruce Robert Coffin knows cops - how they talk, how they act, how they think - and he deploys that knowledge to devastating effect in Among the Shadows. A tense, twisty tale of greed, betrayal, and revenge, it heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in crime fiction." ~ Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind
"Bruce Robert Coffin is the real deal: not just a veteran homicide detective, but an incredibly gifted storyteller. Among the Shadows is the best debut I’ve read in ages, filled with suspense, great writing, a perfectly realized setting in Portland, Maine (this is probably the most accurate depiction I’ve seen of that big little city), and an intriguing main character. Detective John Byron promises to become a break-out favorite among readers of crime fiction. He’s already one of mine." ~ Paul Doiron, author of Widowmaker
"With the twists and racing pace of a thriller and the profound authenticity of a police procedural, Among the Shadows is the kind of debut crime novel that could only be written by an ex-cop." ~ Brian Thiem, author of Red Line
"Bruce Robert Coffin’s debut crime novel is a compelling page-turner that keeps you guessing – and rooting for his determined investigator – until the very end." ~ Kate Clark Flora, author of Finding Amy
Guest Post by the Author
How My Real-life Experiences Affect My Writing
There’s no doubt that my real-life experiences have heavily influenced my writing, none more so than my Detective Byron Mystery Series. You see, I was a police officer for twenty-eight years, the majority of them as an investigator. Now, as a novelist, I’m blessed with the opportunity to share the police life through the eyes of my protagonist, Detective Sergeant John Byron.
The debut novel in the series, Among the Shadows, is a work of fiction, as they all will be. These books serve as a vehicle through which I am able to weave in realistic and gritty details of the lives of police officers. How they think, how they act, and how they feel. I even take on the struggles faced by many police officers. Years of dealing with society at its worst takes a toll on the men and women who wear the badge. Failed relationships, alcohol abuse, and a general mistrust of others are all things that cops must deal with. Their struggle to overcome these stresses while chasing murders makes for a fascinating read.
Many authors write police procedurals, and some are extremely well written. But very few possess any actual police experience and it tends to show through in the writing. Obviously, the primary goal of any mystery/thriller writer is to entertain and to write a book that the reader is incapable of putting down (both literally and figuratively), but I think the story should also make you think. Change your perspective. I’ve inserted my own experiences into the writing in the hopes of providing an entirely different viewpoint for the seasoned mystery reader. A glimpse at the best and the worst of human nature. The never ending tug-of-war that takes place behind the scenes of a police investigation. The gallows humor that cops use to defuse horrific, often unimaginable, situations. Even the thrill of the chase.
My experiences on the job have shaped both who I am and how I write. Come along for the ride, won't you?
About the Author
Bruce Robert Coffin is a former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive. He lives and writes in Maine.