Readers yearning for a noir mystery in the vein of Mike Hammer or Sam Spade are in luck. Peter Colt has delivered just such a tale of intrigue with his debut novel, The Off-Islander.
Set in 1982, the book features all the classic tropes of noir: a lonely detective on a missing persons case, shady suspects and red herrings, sultry ladies to entice him, rainy streets and seedy bars, danger lurking at nearly every turn. The detective, Andy Roark, even totes around a copy of The Raymond Chandler Omnibus for when he needs moments of inspiration. What more could you ask for?
Colt, an Army veteran who served in Kosovo and Iraq and now is a police officer in a small New England city, captures his firsthand, on-the-job experience in moody prose. The novel spends nearly as much time exploring Roark’s inner demons from the Vietnam War and life afterward as it does with the case at hand, adding a deeply evocative perspective to events.
Approached by longtime friend and lawyer Danny Sullivan, Roark is tasked with finding the long-missing father of a California woman whose husband is seeking political office. He follows the cold case trail to Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, where the man once lived as part of a hippie commune in the late 1960s and received his VA checks in the mail.
It doesn’t take long before Roark’s probing questions about the island’s reclusive residents begin to uncover some unsavory details, all with dangerous repercussions. In typical gumshoe fashion, Roark is pushed over a bluff, his car is vandalized, and he’s shot at by a lurking sniper. Before long, even his friend Danny, who got him into the mess in the first place, is begging him to let things lie.
Of course, no respectable private dick would ever do such a thing, and neither does Roark. If you’re a fan of such fiction, you’ll want to see things through to the end, too.