A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review by Kate Mattes:


WILLIAM G. TAPPLY – The Dutch Blue Error. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1984. Paperback reprint: Ballantine, 1985.

WILLIAM TAPPLY Dutch Blue Error

   The Dutch Blue Error is the second book in the Brady Coyne series. Coyne, a lawyer to Boston Brahmins, finds detective work is often what his clients want. Since Coyne is divorced, has an apartment overlooking Boston Harbor and loves to fish and play golf, he likes the money he gets from his clients and usually obliges them.

   In his second book, we meet Xerxes (“Zerk”) Garret, a young black law graduate who substitutes for Coyne’s pregnant secretary while studying for the bar exams. Oliver Hazard Perry Weston summons Coyne to help him quietly buy a duplicate of the Dutch Blue Error, a stamp owned by Weston and thought to be one of a kind.

   Weston takes great pride in his stamp collection, especially since being confined to his house in a wheelchair. Tormented by the thought that his stamp might not be unique (Weston is not an attractive person, treating his adoring son badly), he asks Coyne to act as “his legs” and locate the stamp, validate it, and then negotiate payment.

WILLIAM TAPPLY Dutch Blue Error

   Coyne reluctantly agrees, and these chores lead him to some unusual characters as he keeps appointments in the Combat Zone, Harvard Square and the Peabody Museum, where he and Zerk have a body on their hands.

   The police quickly settle on Zerk as the likely murderer, and suddenly Coyne has an increased desire to straighten out the question of the Dutch Blue Error and clear Zerk. The book is well plotted and the ending is both unpredictable and realistic.

   Death at Charity’s Point, the first in the Coyne series and winner of the 1984 Scribner’s Crime Novel Award, features Coyne’s investigation of the apparent suicide of a wealthy client’s son at a liberal boarding school. While this is an intriguing case, Coyne’s politics and sensitivities are vague. In The Dutch Blue Error, he is more clearly defined and likable.

   Brady Coyne also makes a cameo appearance in The Penny Ferry by Rick Boyer.

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   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.