31 August 2007
The Coast Magazine supplement of The Virginian-Pilot Newspaper
"Outer Banks Books"
Review of Blue Heron Marsh by Douglas Quinn
by Mary Ellen Riddle
Likeable Fellow Featured in Series
He's not as honorable with women as mystery writer Robert Parker's Spenser. And he doesn't have the dry, drunk angst of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux, but Douglas Quinn's Webb Sawyer is a memorable man in his own right.
Sawyer is the main character in Quinn's first "Webb Sawyer" mystery series. Quinn has crafted him to be a maverick like Robicheaux, who is famous for taking the law into his own hands in the name of justice. And like Robicheaux, Sawyer becomes mixed up in a Southern mystery that's as evil as the Ku Klux Klan.
Set in eastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks, this hot-off-the-press novel starts off with an act of violence so malevolent one might be tempted to put the book down. The lynching of a black man, which is witnessed by his son, is as unbearable as "Night" written by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
Fortunately, unlike "Night,' its violence is not relentless. After the first shock, the book slows to a paddle as Sawyer boats through the barrier island marshes and drives his rusty car down North Carolina's back roads. He is on a mission to discover why a series of privileged white men are viciously murdered--but he takes his time making sure he eats plenty of freshly caught fish along the way.
A fishing fan, Sawyer lives in a shack over the water with no phone or cable television. He catches most of his meals, listens to music for entertainment, downs imported beer and occasionally spends time with his sometimes-girlfriend Nan.
He's cooling his heels after a stint in a psychiatric hospital for murdering a Servian death squad leader.
Sawyer seems content with his simple cell-phone-free life until an alluring Amanda Eure asks for his help. She leads him on a wild goose chase that has Sawyer questioning his way with women, his sense of right and wrong and complete lack of techno-sense.
Quinn's fiction has a little bit of everything found in many detective or mystery books: a crusty character who has an appreciation for women, likes plenty of alone time and has a yen for violence and solving mysteries. He's got Spenser's witty sarcasm, which keeps the reader entertained.
And he describes food with as much gusto as the well respected Burke. But like Spenser and Robicheaux, Sawyer is his own man.
Quinn's ability to craft rich characters, coupled with an entertaining storyline, will have readers looking for book No. 2: "Pelican Point."
Quinn lives in the Albemarle region of northeastern North Carolina. Locals will appreciate his insider's knowledge and the area references.
But what makes "Blue Heron Marsh" especially alluring is the protagonist's casual lifestyle.
It gives readers an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
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