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In his debut, An Honest Living, Dwyer Murphy, used the crime novel to deliver a quirky look at New York and the literary scene. It was as if Woody Allen wrote a thriller. While fun and well written, he didn't engage with the genre as I would have expected the editor and chief of Crime Reads would, In his follow up, The Stolen Coast, he goes in a different direction, embracing the genre more, while retaining his original voice.

His protagonist, known only as Jack, lives in a noir world without being a criminal himself. He and his ex-spy father run a business where they help people escape and hideout with a string of safe houses they operate in a decaying seaside town in Massachusetts. Murphy describes the middle of night drives and dealing with cabin fevered clients as simple business chores.

This already risky world gets shaken up when an old flame, Elana renters his life. A hustler, good with numbers, she knows about Jack and what he does. She also knows about a man with a fortune in jewels he keeps in his home. She pulls Jack in for a robbery.

Fans of the genre knows where this story usually goes and so does Murphy. The book delivers what we want from the genre, then plays off those expectations. Jack deals with his pulp life and the situations he is in like a real aware person would. He takes those tropes and grounds them in the real world.

He blends the elements and mood of the crime thriller to explore honest emotions. Jack finds himself trapped in his life, much like his clients with only pick up basketball games providing a brief escape. The robbery appeals to him as much as a reason to break routine and find his own life as greed for the jewels or lust for Elana. The story appears to move more toward the nuanced and pognant conversation has with his father near the climax than the heist of its fallout.

The Stolen Coast has a clear idea of the story it it wants to tell and the genre it's telling it in. The prose is crisp and unpretentious, moving even when it get meditative. Dwyer Murphy portrays a noir world and the toll of living in takes. He makes hard boiled human.

-review by Scott Montgomery


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