Bruce Robert Coffin, a retired detective from the Portland Police Department, has done it again. His latest book, “Within Plain
Sight,” is spellbinding. Coffin, who lives in Windham, has written three other award-winning mysteries since 2016 — “Among the Shadows,” “Beneath the Depth” and “Beyond the Truth” — but his most recent tops them all. (Although Detective John Byron stars in each, you do not have to read the earlier books to enjoy subsequent ones).

Cover courtesy of HarperCollins

Coffin lards his fictional story with real places in Maine. As the tall, debonair Byron investigates the case of a murdered woman in Portland, he parks his car in DiMillo’s parking lot. He visits Munjoy Hill and the West End and stops at Becky’s Diner for coffee. A trip to Augusta to the forensic lab brings Byron across the state, and he visits an elegant mansion located on the real-life Winslow Homer Road in Scarborough. These familiar locations bring the book to special life for readers who live and love Maine.

Coffin also sprinkles reality into the story like salt and pepper in a good gourmet sauce. Given his real-life experience in the field, it’s no surprise he has a knack for detailed description and natural dialogue. His colorful language reflects the frustration of police under pressure who face violent crimes every day. The book also benefits from Coffin’s biting sense of humor. When Byron visits the office of Gene Wagner, a suspect, and asks to see him without an appointment, the receptionist tells him,“Mr. Wagner is busy.” “That makes two of us,” Byron replies.

Coffin introduces almost a dozen characters who could have murdered the beautiful Danica Faherty. We get to know each of them: Alex Stavros is the chef at Alessandro’s, his family’s restaurant on Exchange Street where the victim worked as a maitre d’. Lina Stavros, matriarch of the Stavros family, and Petri Stavros, her son and brother to Alex, who manages the restaurant, also had possible motives to kill the girl. Wagner is a customer of Alessandro’s who was interested in Faherty, as is Morgan Bates, a construction worker whose advances Faherty rejected. And what about the local drunk, Winn? Might he have killed the Faherty while rummaging through her pocketbook, which he found in a dumpster? Family secrets and double lives abound.

The incredible twists in “Within Plain Sight” will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The mystery is woven together like an intricate tapestry. Byron’s discoveries reveal crimes that are, as the title says, hidden in plain sight. The story even makes a detour to Boston, where Massachusetts officials are searching for a serial killer known as The Horseman. Although it is 412 pages, “In Plain Sight” is a fast read. I could not put it down.

Fair warning: the mystery includes many gruesome bits. It is not for the faint of heart.

Pat Davidson Reef taught English and Humanities at Portland’s Catherine McAuley High School for many years and has reviewed art and books for more than 25 years in Maine newspapers. The author of two children’s books about artists, Reef is writing a third, on the artist David Driskell. 

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