Skip to main content

Boxing the Octopus: A Cape Weathers Mystery


Boxing the Octopus: A Cape Weathers Mystery

How fortunate we are that in these closing weeks of 2019, BOXING THE OCTOPUS, a new Cape Weathers mystery, should appear. Author Tim Maleeny kind of dropped off the radar about seven years ago after introducing Cape and featuring him in a trilogy of mysteries (and also publishing JUMP, an excellent stand-alone thriller, the opening page of which still provides cringes after a decade). The sudden reappearance of Maleeny and Cape is cause for joy among savvy mystery readers, particularly since this is by far his smartest and best novel to date.

Cape Weathers is a seasoned and principled (to a fault) San Francisco private investigator, and he returns to action without a misstep. Most of the book occurs near his office, which is in the vicinity of Pier 39, east of the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39’s primary claim to fame is its sea lions, which attract droves of residents and tourists alike. BOXING THE OCTOPUS begins with a short but nonetheless chilling vignette in rural China before kicking things off with a regularly scheduled armored car pickup from the Pier 39 merchants that goes badly off the skids, resulting in the car and driver going off the pier and into San Francisco Bay. When the vehicle is recovered, its occupant and the cash are missing.

"BOXING THE OCTOPUS is a great mystery novel, but it is also terrific literature. One cannot read it without appreciating how sharp a writer Maleeny is..."

Cape gets involved when, with some reluctance, he is retained to locate the driver and prove his innocence. Vera Young, the driver’s girlfriend, is the owner and operator of one of the Pier 39 stores, a specialty shop that sells original children’s clothing. Cape is honest to a fault with Vera about the chances of finding her boyfriend alive and demonstrating either his guilt or innocence, but she insists that he try.

Meanwhile, Pier 39 may be a tourist destination, but beneath the surface of Cape’s world, it is a cauldron of interconnected avarice and underhandedness --- from a popular donut shop to a walk-through aquarium and points beyond --- featuring everything from money-laundering and drug-dealing to good old-fashioned bank heists. Maleeny also provides a bit of a San Francisco travelogue, as well as some fascinating information about octopuses. Actually, you’ll never look at an octopus the same way again after reading this book…or, for that matter, deep fryers, Russian nesting dolls or any number of things. It’s a fabulous read, one that goes from fun to engrossing to enthralling over the course of a complex but well-explained mystery with a satisfying though bittersweet ending.

BOXING THE OCTOPUS is a great mystery novel, but it is also terrific literature. One cannot read it without appreciating how sharp a writer Maleeny is, from his similes and metaphors to the manner in which he keeps the narrative moving from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next, connecting seemingly disparate themes and subjects in a way that demands you keep reading. Welcome back, Tim. And please don’t make us wait so long for the next one.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 25, 2019

Boxing the Octopus: A Cape Weathers Mystery
by Tim Maleeny

  • Publication Date: October 22, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • ISBN-10: 1464211396
  • ISBN-13: 9781464211393