Boston attorney Brady Coyne gets more than he bargained for after he meets his old friend, Ken Nichols, at a hotel bar. Coyne and Nichols go back years, to a time when both were happily married. Since then, each has been amicably divorced. When Nichols ends up stabbed to death in his room, Coyne agrees to represent the victim’s ex-wife Sharon, who is the prime suspect. Coyne’s involvement in the case requires that he untangle a rat’s nest of family intrigue and complex relationships in order to find the killer. And, although Sharon seems sincere in her protestations of innocence, Tapply hints that there may be other reasons she seeks Coyne’s counsel.
Coyne combines a hardboiled sensibility with the serene outlook of a man who seeks a simple and orderly life and Tapply’s plain-spoken prose perfectly reflects this. Coyne is not a wisecracking sort, he’s a gentleman with a genial attitude and a penchant for the occasional dry barb. These zingers spice up the story like dashes of pepper.
The novel’s title, Outwitting Trolls, refers to getting past the obstacles that stand between people in relationships. It is an engaging detective story with subplots about family and relationship dynamics deftly woven into it. For all his gentleness, Coyne has trouble relating to people—particularly family and lovers. (In the beginning, Coyne’s warmest relationship seems to be with his dog—the affection between them is palpable and touching.)
The solution may not come as a total surprise but the story nonetheless provides a graceful and satisfying conclusion to the Brady Coyne series which ended with Tapply’s death in 2009.