Stephen White, Harm’s Way (Signet, 1996)
[originally posted 30Nov2001]
Having read enough cozies in my life to still be able to count them on one hand, I have come to the probably erroneous conclusion that the main difference between the cozy mystery and the hard-boiled detective novel is that the investigator in the cozy is never in quite as much immediate physical danger as is the hard-boiled chap. Even if the chap in question isn’t too hard-boiled.
Such is the case with Boulder, CO psychiatrist Alan Gregory, the hero of Stephen White’s open-ended series of mystery/thrillers. Gregory spends his time getting shot at, beaten about the head, henpecked, and otherwise threatened by a bevy of adversaries and never enjoying it much. The best kind of detective—an amateur who gets too wrapped up in his cases.
In this case, it’s hard to avoid. The victim is Gregory’s next door neighbor, a woodcraftsman who was designing sets for a theatre production in town. The murder is similar in some ways to a previous murder in Denver, and so the local police start thinking “serial killer.” Gregory’s PD pal Sam Purdy hires him on as an amateur profiler, and away we go.
Stephen White is a solid writer of thrillers, easily as good as any of the A-list names working in the genre today. His lack of widespread readership continues to baffle me. Harm’s Way is of a piece with the rest of the Alan Gregory novels, and comes just as highly recommended from this camp. *** ½