Reviews by L. J. Roberts

BRANDON DEBOIS – Hard Aground. Lewis Cole #11. Pegasus Crime, hardcover, April 2018.

First Sentence:   From the vantage point of my bed, I looked out the near window to a cluster of rocks and boulders, which had been tossed and turned over the years by storms and long-ago glaciers.

   Recovering from surgery, magazine journalist Lewis Cole is housebound and in pain. When a couple show up on his doorstep wanting to tour the inside of his home for its historical significance as a former coast guard station and a housing facility for Navy corpsmen during the Korean War, it is initially annoying, but their persistent visits escalate.

   Cole believes he hears someone in his house at night but can’t find evidence of it during the day. Lewis’ friend Felix Tinios had taken a silver bowl to Maggie Tyler Branch, a descendant of the town’s founder, for her to appraise. When Maggie is murdered and the bowl missing, Felix Is committed to finding both his bowl and the killer.

   Dubois’ opening is twinge-worthy. It is also informational. The author does a nice job of introducing the protagonist and providing new readers with his background as well as reminding series readers as to why he is in his present situation. Felix is one of those wonderful characters you’re almost glad isn’t the primary protagonist as that would remove some of the mystique about him. He is also someone one would be glad to have as a friend, particularly if he’d cook for you— “Dinner is fettuccini Alfredo with lobster and salad…,” –and would never want as an enemy.

   Dubois does write characters who are interesting and believable. The women are smart, strong, and very capable; journalist Paula Woods, Cole’s lover, and Det. Sgt. Diane Woods who is about to marry her partner, Kara.

   There are delightful touches of humor— “Fortune sometimes favors the brave, the lucky, and those too dumb to know what they have.” —but also moments which touch your emotions— “Alice moved in with a niece over in Worcester…and got Alzheimer’s, that nasty bitch of a disease. Suffered with that for years, and died two years back. By then, it was a mercy.” Lewis has experienced his own tragedy. Anyone who has lost someone they truly loved can associate with Lewis.

   Dubois’ writing captures people, places and emotions well. There is one very effective scene which serves to remind us that everyone is a human, and everyone has their own story and problems. On the negative side, there are also some really annoying portents. The third, which is late in the book, is not only completely unnecessary — after all, it’s not as though one wouldn’t keep reading at this point — but it vastly diminished the suspense of what was to follow.

   Hard Aground with a protagonist unable to leave his house is clever and engrossing. There are twists, suspense, a wonderful rescue, and an all-round excellent ending.

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      The Lewis Cole series —

1. Dead Sand (1994)
2. Black Tide (1995)
3. The Shattered Shell (1999)
4. Killer Waves (2002)
5. Buried Dreams (2004)
6. Primary Storm (2006)
7. Deadly Cove (2011)
8. Fatal Harbor (2014)
9. Blood Foam (2015)
10. Storm Cell (2016)
11. Hard Aground (2018)