Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books. Make sure you check out the list over at Patti’s blog after you read Barry Ergang’s review of Blunt Darts by Jeremiah Healy. Amazon says this is the first book in the John Cuddy series. I am pretty sure I have never read any of the series.
BLUNT DARTS (1984) by Jeremiah Healy
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
After working as a claims investigator for Empire Insurance Company for eight years, John Francis Cuddy was appointed head of claims investigation in Boston. Shortly after his wife Beth’s death after a long illness, Cuddy was approached by a colleague and asked to sign an investigation report of a claim that was never probed by the Boston office, and he refused. This resulted in his dismissal.
|Paperback Blunt Darts|
“Six years earlier the company had required all of us to obtain and maintain private investigator licenses from the Department of Public Safety. I knew three or four semi-reputable guys in the trade who could tell me how to get started and maybe even refer me a few clients. I decided it was time J.F.C. became his own man.”
When he receives a call from Valerie Jacobs, whom he met while at Empire because at the time she was dating a claims adjuster there, Cuddy agrees to meet her for lunch. A schoolteacher, Valerie is concerned about a former student, Stephen Kinnington, and wants Cuddy to meet with Eleanor Kinnington, who lives in the town of Meade and who is the mother of Judge Willard J. Kinnington, “one of the youngest men ever to go on the bench, and his family has sort of, well, ruled Meade since long before I arrived,” Valerie explains. “Anyway, Stephen’s mother, Diane Kinnington, killed herself about four years ago by driving her Mercedes off a bridge and into the river. Apparently she boozed it up a lot, so no one knows whether it was accidental or suicidal. It hit Stephen pretty hard, as you can imagine.” Hard because he was catatonic when he went into and spent time recovering in the sanatorium Willow Wood.
Convinced that the young man has run away rather than been the victim of a kidnapping, his grandmother, Eleanor Kinnington, wants Cuddy to find Stephen and bring him home to resume a normal life. She has a strong sense of where he might have gone, and Cuddy sets out after him—but not without complications. Among the latter are Judge Kinnington and his court officer and right-hand man, a brutal giant of a disgraced cop named Gerald Blakey, neither of whom want Cuddy’s intrusions.
While dealing with personal issues, not the least of which is his relationship to wannabe-lover Valerie Jacobs versus loyalty to his dead wife, Cuddy’s quest to find and bring Stephen home results in revelations about the Kinnington family, among them the judge’s brother Telford, who died in Vietnam while leading “his company in a counterattack from an American position against a much larger Vietcong force.” The overall quest is not without violence and disclosures, plausible if unexpected, by both Cuddy and the reader.
Blunt Darts is the first novel in the John Francis Cuddy mystery series and the second one I’ve read, the other being Swan Dive. Like the latter, Blunt Darts is a stellar example of economical prose that conveys a powerful, fast-moving narrative and character-delineating dialogue. I look forward to reading still more in this exceptional series and would not dissuade other hardboiled mystery fans—at least, those who aren’t squeamish about occasional moments of street language—to do the same. Jeremiah Healy is an author well worth a reader’s time.