J. W. Jackson is used to having his wife Zee pushing him to stay out of the deaths and other mysteries that occur on Martha’s Vineyard.  But, this time, when Eduardo Alverez is killed by an explosion in the engine room of the car and passenger ferry Trident, Zee feels differently.  Eduardo may have been a striker but he was also by all accounts a quiet, hard working devoted family man who had no enemies. While the ferry strike continues unabated, Eduardo leaves behind a wife and child full of pain and heartache. Daddy isn’t coming home and the police seem to have decided that since he was a striker, he was planting a bomb that just went off earlier than intended. With a little nudge from Zee, J. W. Jackson gets to poking around in the case.

It also doesn’t take much convincing to get J. W. to help his old friend Brady Coyne.  Coyne is a Boston attorney who has been contacted by one of his clients.  The client also lives on Martha’s Vineyard and has witnessed strange happenings in the middle of the night at an isolated dock. Men with automatic guns, large crates, and small boats running without their lights seem to indicate trouble but the nature of the trouble is unknown.

Coyne and Jackson begin poking around separately and soon find that their cases are linked.  It leads them on a wild chase and a thrilling, though totally unbelievable climax, at one of the island’s airstrips.

This is the fundamental problem with this novel.  Since this is the third joint book, as well as the latest in a long series by each author, one does not expect sudden character revelations or some abrupt shift in character development. These are well established characters with long histories that aren’t about to change. One does expect the plot to make sense.  Especially with regards to terrorism these days and it doesn’t come close.

Instead, the novel relies on a Hollywood B movie style ending in the big climax that just doesn’t work.  As such, any reader mildly aware of anything the last few years is apt to lose all suspension of disbelief.  Savvy readers may find themselves laughing uncontrollably or launching the book across the room in a fit of annoyance. Either is possible and somebody should have addressed the issue long before the book saw print.

One wonders if this is a case where the author’s prestigious names and body of work overruled any editorial considerations regarding the logic of the ending.  Or maybe somebody thought Hollywood, where bad guys miss despite emptying clip after clip at the hero, will come calling with their big bucks.  Either way, what up until the end had been a fairly good read, was destroyed by ludicrous sheer implausibility.

The authors can and usually do better. It is sad that this time that didn’t happen.

Third Strike

Philip R. Craig

http://www.philiprcraig.com

William G. Tapply

http://www.williamgtapply.com

Scribner

http://simonandschuster.com

December 2007

ISBN# 1-4165-3256-0

Hardback

323 Pages (including recipes)

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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