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Interview: November 17, 2022

It’s May 2023 in San Diego. Private investigator Rick Cahill has reached a pinnacle. He married Leah, and their daughter, 14-month-old Krista, is the center of his universe. He still hasn’t told Leah about his CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and its debilitating effects. He has developed skills performing corporate background verifications by computer --- a desk jockey. His main corporate contact runs afoul of sinister characters. Her homicide draws Rick back into traditional investigative mode, with the help of PI pal Moira MacFarlane. In this interview, Matt Coyle chats with’s Dean Murphy about what inspired the plot of DOOMED LEGACY, his next novel, and Rick’s complicated friendship with Moira. The birth of their child is Rick Cahill’s legacy, causing many to cringe upon seeing the title of this latest book. True to form, you keep readers tethered, as you did with his first wife’s murder and the truth about his “dirty cop” father. Will the reveal take several novels?

Matt Coyle: It will be addressed, but not formally, in the next book.

BRC: Why does Rick not tell Leah or Moira about the CTE diagnosis?

MC: They know he has the disease, but not about the new symptom that manifests itself in sudden rages at the least provocation. He doesn’t want to worry either of them, and with Leah, he’s concerned that she may flee with their daughter, Krista, if she fears for their safety. Plus, he doesn’t like to admit to others, or even himself, that he can’t control his own emotions, no matter the reason.

BRC: The many characters and corporations cause labyrinthine plot twists, somewhat of a Who’s on First scenario. How did you keep the threads from tangling?

MC: I chose to give DOOMED LEGACY a more complex major plotline because I wanted the outcome of Rick’s investigation to be more consequential to more people than to just those involved. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult for me to keep track of the players and twists because that grew organically from the obstacles I needed to put in front of Rick. I don’t outline, so I’m happy to hear that the threads didn’t turn into a tangled mess.

BRC: What inspired Rick’s return to traditional investigative endeavors?

MC: Rick sitting behind a computer doing background checks isn’t an exciting read, but that’s the agreement he made with his wife, Leah. So I had to find a way for him to get back into the fray without overtly breaking his promise. When his contact at his biggest account asks him for a simple favor that just requires him to do a little computer work, he feels for the sake of his business and for their friendship that he can’t turn her down. However, when she’s murdered, Rick’s instincts and honor kick in and he has to investigate, even though he’s going against Leah’s wishes.

BRC: Fellow PI Moira MacFarlane and Rick share a symbiotic relationship and is instrumental to Rick succeeding. Will they merge their agencies?

MC: I never intended to write a Moira figure. No partners or sidekicks for Rick. I wanted him to be a lone wolf the entire series. In my second book, NIGHT TREMORS, I needed another private detective for one scene. I stuck in Moira and then she started talking, and I knew I had the partner/sidekick I never wanted and, now, couldn’t live without. The best stumbled-upon decision I’ve ever made. All that said, I don’t see Rick and Moira merging agencies. I still need to keep a bit of that lone wolf in him. Plus, I think Moira wouldn’t want to have Rick around that much. He’d get on her nerves.

BRC: Just as we get to know Sara Bhandari, Rick’s contact at Fulcrum Security, she is murdered. Her celebrity sister, Shreya, retains Rick to investigate and shortly after throws him under the bus. Will Shreya reappear in a future novel offering a mea culpa?

MC: I really liked writing Shreya, but I don’t think we’ll see her again. Then again, with my writing process, you never know.

BRC: This Rick Cahill addict needs to know what’s in store for the next installment. Proposed title? Synopsis?

MC: Proposed title: ODYSSEY’S END. Synopsis: Peter Stone shows up at Rick’s front door with a sack of money asking for a favor. Nothing could go wrong, right?

BRC: Your website identifies many awards and nominations. BLIND VIGIL took home the Shamus Award for Best Mystery and was nominated for Lefty, Barry and Macavity awards. It is a masterpiece and tested all limits, as does LAST REDEMPTION. What other accolades did you receive in 2021?

MC: LAST REDEMPTION was nominated for the Barry, Shamus and Lefty awards, and I was named the San Diego Writers Festival 2021 Mystery Writer of the Year. I’m thrilled and honored by all!

BRC: What were the most challenging aspects, and the biggest reward, in writing this novel?

MC: The most challenging aspects were writing the family dynamics and Rick having to deal with the progress of his brain disease. The biggest reward was having someone very important to me call it my best novel.

BRC: Midnight, Rick’s black Lab, plays a pivotal role. Are you sure he doesn’t have cat DNA?

MC: In a lot of ways, this book is about family, and Midnight remains a very important part of Rick’s. Unfortunately, he, like Rick and everyone else, is aging in real time.

BRC: Thank you for a thrilling read and for this interview. Do you have any final thoughts?

MC: I just want to thank you again, Dean, for all you do for mystery writers who aren’t as well-known as those on the New York Times bestseller list. Bringing attention to us helps to boost our careers. THANKS!

» Click here to see Matt Coyle’s events calendar.