“Blind Vigil,” by Matt Coyle (Ocean View Publishing)
It seems unlikely that a sightless private detective could be of much use, but in “Blind Vigil,” the seventh book in Matt Coyle’s series featuring San Diego gumshoe Rick Cahill, the protagonist is determined to prove the doubters wrong.
Blinded by a gunshot in “Lost Tomorrows” (2019), Rick’s nine-month-long recuperation is interrupted when his on-again, off-again partner, Moria MacFarlane, asks for his help.
Rick’s pal Turk Muldoon thinks his girlfriend, Shay, might be cheating and want’s her followed, but Moria is reluctant to take the case. The last time she exposed a cheating woman, the jealous husband killed her. Would Turk be capable of something like that? Moria needs Rick’s help in assessing his state of mind.
After talking things over with Turk, Rick assures Moria that his friend would never hurt Shay, so Moria accepts the assignment. And just like that, Shay is strangled to death in her bed, Turk is arrested, and the evidence against him looks solid.
Moria, consumed with guilt and furious at both Turk and Rick, is convinced that Turk is guilty. Rick isn’t and, white cane in hand, ventures into the world to hunt down the real killer.
Coyle does a fine job of portraying Rick’s adjustment to his blindness — the way he uses his heightened senses of sound and smell to find his way around and sense danger. Gradually, as he pursues his lonely investigation, his eyes begin to perceive bright lights, giving him hope that his sight may eventually return. Soon, he uncovers enough reasonable doubt about Turk’s guilt to draw Maria back into the case.
Rick — stubborn, loyal, and suspicious of authority — is an intriguing character with six previous books worth of backstory. Coyle drops enough hints about the past to avoid confusing new readers, although they also will be keenly aware that they have missed a lot.
The result is a tense, fast-paced, hardboiled mystery told in a clear, unadorned style.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”
Bruce Desilva, The Associated Press