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Third Rail: An Eddy Harkness Novel


Third Rail: An Eddy Harkness Novel

I don’t know if we necessarily need another police procedural series, but we do need this one. THIRD RAIL, the debut novel of Rory Flynn (a pseudonym for veteran noir novelist Stona Fitch), contains elements that result in it fitting comfortably in the mystery and thriller genres --- and yes, the police procedural genre as well. It has enough twists, turns and disparate elements to make even the most jaded reader of those genres sit up and take notice.

THIRD RAIL serves as an introduction to Eddy Harkness, who is known as the “Harvard cop.” Harkness, who began his law enforcement career as a detective with the Boston Police Department, has an uncanny ability to locate hidden objects, particularly cash, bodies or guns. Flynn does an excellent job of setting this up and rolling with it throughout the book; it’s not a supernatural talent by any means, but rather Harkness’s keen powers of observation and deduction that carry the day. His career ascendency is on a fast track until it careens suddenly and unexpectedly into the weeds when a decision he makes goes very, very wrong.

"[W]hile THIRD RAIL is complete in itself, there are enough plot threads left open at the end of the book to provide fodder for future installments."

Harkness suddenly becomes an outcast in Boston; by the grace of a family friend, he lands none-too-softly in Nagog, the clannish Boston suburb where he grew up. His considerable talents are wasted on his duties --- he is a step or two below a meter maid --- but he occasionally gets the opportunity to shine in an investigation. He attempts to step lightly, for the most part, hoping that if he keeps his head down and doesn’t slip up, the promise of getting back on the Boston force to do some real police work will come through.

However, two elements dovetail to create an obstacle for that goal. The first is that he loses his service gun after a night uncharacteristically filled with drunkenness and debauchery. When Harkness starts getting texts with his gun showing up at crime scenes, he knows he’s in trouble. He needs to get the weapon back, but first he has to find out what the initially anonymous sender wants from him. The second element consists of a series of seemingly unrelated automobile accidents that in fact are linked to a new type of designer street drug called “Third Rail.” It is almost immediately addictive, creating a fascinating mix of memory and delusion that makes it well-nigh irresistible.

Harkness’s hunt for his gun and for the source behind Third Rail lead him back to Boston and to his past, where his heritage comes back to haunt him and family secrets are revealed, for good or for ill. And when the investigation ultimately unveils corruption and criminal activity within his own quiet community, it leads to a confrontation that he may not be able to walk away from intact.

THIRD RAIL is driven equally by character and plot. Harkness's Nagog is faintly reminiscent ofFargo (the film or television series, take your pick). It is populated by quirky characters, some of whom are dangerous to others, others who are dangerous only to themselves. It makes deceptively quiet Nagog as well as the dark and quietly menacing Boston more real. As for Harkness, his aptitude for discovery is nicely balanced by his occasional penchant to make bad personal choices, even with good motivation. And while THIRD RAIL is complete in itself, there are enough plot threads left open at the end of the book to provide fodder for future installments.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 20, 2014

Third Rail: An Eddy Harkness Novel
by Rory Flynn

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0544483928
  • ISBN-13: 9780544483927