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Hell Bent (Brady Coyne Series #24)

Hell Bent (Brady Coyne Series #24)

4.0 5
by William G. Tapply

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Boston attorney Brady Coyne finds his own past coming back to haunt his professional life when his ex-girlfriend Alex Shaw, long out of touch, reappears, wanting Brady to represent her brother. Augustine Shaw was a notable photo-journalist, happily married with two small children – until he returned from a stint in Iraq missing a hand and suffering from Post


Boston attorney Brady Coyne finds his own past coming back to haunt his professional life when his ex-girlfriend Alex Shaw, long out of touch, reappears, wanting Brady to represent her brother. Augustine Shaw was a notable photo-journalist, happily married with two small children – until he returned from a stint in Iraq missing a hand and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now he’s lost his career, his peace of mind and his family.

Brady is hired to seem him through the divorce. The client wasn’t eager to accept Brady’s representation, but before the divorce proceedings are very far along, the photographer is found dead in his rented apartment, an apparent suicide.

But something isn’t right and Brady starts to think the suicide was staged. With very little to go on and with everyone around him wanting to quickly close the books on what appears to be a tragic case, Brady soon finds himself alone, in the midst of one of the most dangerous situations of his entire life, and facing people who do anything to avoid being exposed.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tapply just keeps writing excellent prose, filled with fine characters and solidly crafted plots….If you haven’t already discovered him, start now." – Globe and Mail (Toronto) on Nervous Water

"Adept at plot and characterization…Tapply can be counted on to provide maximum enjoyment." – San Diego Union-Tribune on Out Cold

Publishers Weekly

After two dozen adventures (One-Way Ticket, etc.), Tapply's Brady Coyne, a refreshingly decent lawyer, remains a pleasure to see at work. After a seven-year absence from Brady's life, Alexandria Shaw, a former lover, walks into his Boston office and asks him to handle her brother's divorce case. Gus Shaw, an independent photojournalist who lost his right hand in Iraq and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, promises to be a difficult client, but soon after Brady and Gus talk, Gus is found dead, an apparent suicide. Though no evidence suggests murder, Alexandria is convinced her brother didn't kill himself; Brady agrees to probe, with predictable results. While Brady tends to telegraph important aspects of the case, his investigation reveals a lot of the hidden collateral damage of the Iraq war: bereaved families, physically or psychologically wounded vets and the people who try to help those who have suffered. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Intrepid Boston lawyer Brady Coyne (Nervous Water; Muscle Memory) is asked by his ex-girlfriend to represent her brother, Gus Sinclair, in his divorce. Gus, a well-known photojournalist, has returned from Iraq, where he lost his right hand in a bombing. Then the case takes a sinister turn when Gus is found dead from an apparent suicide, and his photos are missing. At the same time, Coyne is trying to bring peace of mind to an elderly couple whose furniture was damaged by movers. At the top of the legal thriller genre, Tapply brings refreshing solutions to these cases. Sure to appeal to fans of Lisa Scottoline and Jeremiah Healy. Recommended.

—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
The apparent suicide of a disturbed Iraq War veteran turns out to be anything but. Talk about good timing. Just as Boston attorney Brady Coyne (One-Way Ticket, 2007, etc.) is mourning the departure of his favorite hospital administrator, Evie Banyon, who's forsaken his bed to care for her dying father in California, in walks his old flame Alexandria Shaw. Though he hasn't seen Alex in seven years, their salt-and-pepper chemistry is still perfect-or would be if Alex didn't want her ex-lover to represent her brother Gus, a freelance photographer who left his right hand and his peace of mind behind in Iraq. Gus's wife Claudia has been driven to the end of her rope by Gus's PTSD behavior and has filed for divorce. Prompted by his waving a Beretta pistol in front of his family and threatening to kill himself, Claudia has also taken out a restraining order against him-two details Gus neglects to mention to his new lawyer. So it's clear that Gus isn't the ideal client, and it's not a surprise to anyone when Gus's second suicide attempt is successful. The only person left unconvinced is Alex, who maintains that not even the crazy scarecrow who came home from Iraq would have killed himself. It must have been murder, and a very convenient murder at that. Brady's investigation, which indeed proves that Gus was as far from suicidal as you can get, is more heartfelt than inspired. Despite the weighty issues involved, it's clear, as he admits, that "fishing is what's in my blood. Not the law."

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Brady Coyne Series , #24
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Hell Bent

By William G. Tapply

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 William G. Tapply
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4913-2


It was a few minutes before five in the afternoon on the second Thursday in October. I had just hung up the phone with my last client of the day, a pediatrician named Paul Berman who was getting divorced and wanted to hang on to as much of his money and dignity as the law would allow. He had plenty of money, but he was running short of dignity. Divorce does that to people.

It does it to their lawyers, too.

I had swiveled my desk chair around so I could look out my office window. We were on the downside of the autumnal equinox. The low-angled late-afternoon October sun was washing the tops of the Trinity Church and the Copley Plaza Hotel with warm orange light, and dusk was beginning to seep into the floor of the city. It was the last gasp of Indian summer in Boston. Already the scarlet leaves were losing their grip on the maples that grew along the walkways that intersected the plaza. A bittersweet time of year in New England. Evie had been gone for nearly four months, and I had no plans to go trout fishing again until next spring. Global warming notwithstanding — and I did not doubt Mr. Gore — winter was definitely around the corner.

There came a soft one-knuckle tap on my office door. Without turning around, I said, "Come on in, Julie. I'm off the phone."

I heard the door open and close behind me.

"You notice how early it's getting dark these days?" I swiveled around. "You can —" I stopped. Blinked. Shook my head. Smiled.

It wasn't Julie, my faithful secretary, standing on the other side of my desk with an armload of manila folders.

It was Alexandria Shaw.

"Jesus," I said.

"Not quite," Alex said. "Close, though."

I got up, went around my desk, and opened my arms.

She smiled, stepped forward, and gave me a hug.

"The least Julie could've done was warn me," I said. "What's it been?"

"Seven years," she said. "It's been a little over seven years."

"Seven years since you dumped me." I stepped back from her. "You look great." I frowned. "Something's different."

She cocked her head and smiled. I remembered that lopsided, cynical smile. Alex was a great cynic. "Everything's different after seven years, Brady."

"Yeah, but there's something. What is it?"

"My hair's a little longer. Some of them have turned gray. A few new wrinkles. I got contacts. Gained a couple pounds." She patted her hip, then waved her hand in the air, dismissing the entire subject of her appearance. "I'm actually here on business. I need a good lawyer."

"It's the glasses," I said. "You used to wear glasses. They kept slipping down to the tip of your nose. You're not wearing your glasses."

"That's why I got contact lenses. Because my glasses kept slipping down my nose."

"I used to think it was sexy," I said. "The way you'd keep poking at them with your forefinger, pushing them back."

She shrugged. "That was a long time ago."

"You need a lawyer, huh?"

"Maybe I could buy you a drink?"

I glanced at my watch, then shook my head. "I've got to get home, feed my dog. He's expecting me."

"Your dog."

"I've got a dog now. His name is Henry. Henry David Thoreau. He's a Brittany. He knows when it's suppertime, and he sulks if I'm late. It's a big responsibility."

"I should've made an appointment," Alex said. "Julie didn't say anything about a dog needing to be fed."

"I bet she said a lot about other things."

She shrugged. "We got caught up."

"She always liked you."

"It took her a while, if you remember," Alex said. "Julie was very protective of you. Still is. Wanted to be sure my intentions were honorable today before she let me see you. I had to convince her I didn't come here to seduce you."

"She told you about Evie?"

Alex nodded. "I'm sorry to hear ..."

"Yeah," I said. "Oh, well."

"How're you doing?"

"I'm getting used to it." I smiled at her. "You don't need an appointment. I'm a little off balance here. I meant it about Henry, but the drink is a good idea. Why don't you come home with me. I've got a nearly full jug of Rebel Yell. You always liked Rebel Yell."

"You sure? I mean ..."

"What exactly did Julie tell you?"

"She said you bought a townhouse on Beacon Hill and were living with a hospital administrator named Evie Banyon. Julie said Evie is smart and quite beautiful, and she implied that you love her. But Evie's gone now, and you don't know when — or even if — she'll be back." Alex smiled. "Julie said you've been very lonely and sad lately."

"I should fire that woman," I said. "She talks too much."

"She certainly does," said Alex. "But she cares about you."

"So what else did Julie say?" I said.

"She said she likes Evie," Alex said, "but she's quite angry at her for deserting you."

"Evie's out in California taking care of her father," I said. "On his houseboat in Sausalito. He's dying of pancreatic cancer. She's doing what she needs to do. I support what she's doing. She didn't desert me."

"But she's gone."

"Yes," I said. "She's gone."

Alex looked at me for a minute, then nodded. "This was a mistake. I'll go make an appointment with Julie." She turned for the door.

"I meant it about the drink," I said. "I want to hear about your problem. You'll like Henry. He'll like you, too, if you give him something to eat. You still enjoy Rebel Yell on the rocks, don't you?"

She turned back to face me. "I didn't come here to seduce you. Honest."

"I didn't think you did."

Alex smiled. "Julie does, I think."

"That's Julie. Don't worry about it."

"I'm not." She narrowed her eyes at me. "And for the record, I didn't dump you."

"Well," I said, "in the final analysis, you did. But I suppose it was more complicated than that." I shrugged. "It's easier for me to think of it that way, that's all. Anyway, it was seven years ago. I've forgiven you."

She jerked back and glared at me. "You've forgiven me? Are you delusional?"

I held up both hands, palms out. "I'm kidding. Jesus."

"It was you who kissed that woman, Brady Coyne."

"Do you want to pick at old scabs," I said, "or do you want to come meet my dog and have a smooth glass of sippin' whiskey and tell me why you need a lawyer?"

She looked at me for a minute, then nodded. "The drink and the dog. We can save the scab picking for another time." She smiled. "You always did know how to piss me off."

"And vice versa," I said. "It was one of the great strengths of our relationship."

Alex had left her car at the Alewife T station and taken the train into the city, and I had walked to work. It was a warm and pleasant autumn afternoon-almost-evening, so we decided to walk from my office in Copley Square to my townhouse on Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill. There was between us the awkwardness of intimate old friends who hadn't even spoken for seven years. We had once loved each other. Now we were strangers, getting to know each other all over again.

So we exchanged some facts of our lives as we poked along Newbury Street. Alex still lived in her little house on the dirt road in Garrison, Maine. I used to drive up from Boston to spend weekends with her. A couple of years after she and I parted ways, she married a Portland land developer named Morgridge, and a couple of years after that they divorced amicably. "No harm, no foul," Alex said.

She'd finished the book she'd been working on when we were together. It was a collection of case studies about domestic abuse that got her a few television talk-show appearances and made it briefly onto the bottom end of some best-seller lists, and then she published a novel inspired by one of the cases that had not made it into the nonfiction book. The novel didn't sell very well but got good reviews, and her publisher was encouraging her to write another one. Now she was in the throes of trying to get a handle on her story.

I told her about buying the townhouse from the family of a client who'd been murdered, how a dog had come with the house, how Evie and Henry and I had been cohabiting there for the past few years, and how Evie had bought herself a one-way ticket to California the previous June.

Alex didn't offer to tell me why she'd come down to Boston from Garrison, Maine, or why she needed a lawyer, or why she thought I should be that lawyer, and I didn't ask.

We sat beside each other in my wooden Adirondack chairs in the little walled-in patio garden behind my house. I'd put my jug of Rebel Yell and a platter holding a wedge of extra- sharp Vermont cheddar and a double handful of Wheat Thins on the picnic table, and we drank the sippin' whiskey on the rocks from square thick-glass tumblers. Alex had slipped Henry a hunk of cheese, making her his friend for life, so he lay at her feet gazing hopefully — which was easily confused with lovingly — up at her. With dogs, it's all about food.

"This is nice," she said. She was slouching back looking up at the darkening autumn sky. "Quite a change from that dump you used to have on Lewis Wharf."

"That wasn't a dump," I said. "I was just a dumpy housekeeper."

She didn't say anything for a few minutes, and neither did I. We sipped our drinks.

Then she said, "It's my brother, not me. Why I wanted to talk to you. Why I need a lawyer. It's for him. Do you remember Gus?"

"I never met him," I said. "You used to talk about him. Your big brother. Augustine. Alexandria and Augustine. Your parents had fun with names. He's a photographer, isn't he?"

"A photojournalist, to be precise," she said. "He didn't create art, and he didn't do weddings or proms or K-mart portraits. He told stories."

I nodded. "Telling stories runs in your family. Gus traveled a lot, I seem to remember. So what's he need me for?"

"He's getting divorced."

"Wait a minute," I said. "You used the past tense. You said Gus told stories. Meaning ...?"

She shook her head. "He doesn't do that anymore."

"Why not?"

"It's kind of a long story."

"And I bet it's connected to why he wants me to represent him," I said.

"Sure it's connected," Alex said. "Everything's connected. But this is me. I'm the one who wants you to represent him."

"He doesn't?"

"He doesn't know what he wants."

"Well, consider it done," I said. "No problem. Just have him give me a call." I hesitated. "This is nice, seeing you again. But really, I do divorces all the time, and it's not as if I'm likely to refuse to represent him. It wasn't necessary —"

"Like I said," she said. "It's a long story, Brady."

"If you want to make supper out of cheese and crackers and Rebel Yell," I said, "we've got all night."

She reached over and put her hand on my wrist. "You'll represent him?"

"Assuming he's getting divorced in Massachusetts where I'm allowed to practice law, sure."

"He's renting a place in Concord now. He works in a camera store there. His wife and kids live in Bedford."

"How long have they been separated?"

"A little over six months. It's — why don't I just tell you."

I poured another finger of Rebel Yell into each of our glasses. Then I slouched back in my chair. "Proceed," I said.

She hesitated for a long moment. "There's a lot I don't know," she said. "Gus came back from Iraq a little over a year ago. He doesn't say much about it. He lost his hand. His right hand. He's — he was, I guess you'd say — right-handed. So now he's given up photography. Says he can't manipulate a camera one-handed." Alex took a sip from her glass. "He's got two little girls. My nieces. Clea and Juno. His wife, a really nice woman named Claudia — Gussie traveled all over the world, and he ended up marrying the girl he took to his senior prom — Claudia asked him to leave back in the spring, and now she's hired a lawyer and she wants a divorce, and Gus, he's not doing anything."

"He needs to be represented," I said.

"I know," said Alex. "That's why I'm here. Can you represent somebody who doesn't want to be represented, says he doesn't care what happens?"

"Not unless he asks me to," I said. "He sounds depressed. Losing his hand, giving up his career, getting kicked out of the house by his wife."

"Oh, he's depressed, all right. He has been ever since he got back, if depressed is what you want to call it."

"Post-traumatic stress disorder, huh?" I said. "He lost his hand. Probably saw a lot of horror."

She nodded. "I guess so. That's why he went over there. To take pictures of the horror."

"Was he embedded?"

Alex shook her head. "Not Gus. He was independent and proud of it. He believed that being embedded meant being controlled, being allowed to see and hear only what they chose to show him. Being censored. He went on his own, at his own expense. It's what he always did. He was always off somewhere looking for a story to take pictures of. That was his career. Finding the stories that weren't being told, the shadows and angles that he believed needed to be exposed. He thought it was important. He believed in it."

"So what stories did he find in Iraq?"

Alex shrugged. "I don't know. He was over there for about a year, and then he came home without his right hand, and he hasn't said much of anything to anybody."

"Is he being treated for it?" I said. "The PTSD?"

"He's in some kind of support group. Or he was. I don't know if he's still going. He's on medication, I do know that." She shook her head. "There's a lot I don't know. It was Claudia who called me, told me she was divorcing my brother and he refused to retain a lawyer, and as much as she couldn't live with him and didn't want him around her kids, she was worried about him and thought he should have a lawyer. So I called Gus, told him I was coming down, and he didn't say yes and he didn't say no, which is pretty much how he seems to be dealing with the world these days. So I came. I figured I'd stay with him for a few days, try to get him pointed in the right direction."

"Get him a lawyer," I said.

"Yes," she said. "Ideally, you. And in general see how he was doing and if there was anything I could do for him. It's the least I can do." She blew out a breath. "When we were growing up, Gus was my hero. My big brother. I called him Gussie. Everybody loved him, or at least that's how it seemed to me. He was a really good athlete, he was big and strong and handsome, he laughed all the time. He made me laugh. He was nice to me. I was just this bratty little four- eyed sister, always whining and looking for attention. But he didn't tease me or get mad at me or ignore me, even though he was eight years older than me. He read to me at bedtime, took me out for ice cream, taught me how to play checkers ..."

She tilted back her head and looked up at the sky. I could see the glitter of tears in her eyes.

"You don't have to talk about it," I said.

She turned and looked at me. "It's just sad, what's happened to him. So I drove down from Maine a few days ago, and basically he said I couldn't stay with him, that he had to be alone. Said he was working on some things, whatever that's supposed to mean. It was pretty obvious that me being there made him edgy. So I got a room at the Best Western there by the rotary in Concord. That's where I'm staying. I've had supper with him a couple of times, and he pretends that everything's all right. I know he's just trying to protect me, the way he's always done."

"But you're worried about him," I said.

She laughed quickly. "His life has gone all to hell, Brady. I guess he's going to have to work most things out for himself, but the least I can do is make sure he gets a fair shake in this divorce. Now he's saying he doesn't care. I figure someday he will care."

"That's exactly right," I said. "I see that a lot. One of the parties — usually the husband — he's wracked with guilt or just overwhelmed by the whole thing, he thinks he doesn't care what happens. He thinks if he gets completely screwed, it's what he deserves."

"That's Gussie exactly," said Alex.

"He said he was working on some things?" I said. "What things?"

"I don't know. He didn't elaborate, and I didn't ask. I didn't really take it literally. I think it was just his way of getting me off his back."

"Why did Claudia kick him out of the house?"

She shrugged. "I'm sure he was pretty hard to live with. I figure that's none of my business."

"If I'm going to be Gus's lawyer," I said, "it will have to be my business. Anyway, if he doesn't agree to have me represent him, it's all moot."

"He'll agree," said Alex. "I'll take care of that."


Excerpted from Hell Bent by William G. Tapply. Copyright © 2008 William G. Tapply. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

William G. Tapply was the author of more than two dozen novels, many of them featuring his signature character, Brady Coyne. He was also the author of the critically acclaimed Stoney Calhoun novels, as well as several books on fishing and wildlife. The Writer in Residence at Clark University, Tapply lived with his wife, novelist Vicki Stiefel, in Hancock, New Hampshire.

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
ArchieC More than 1 year ago
Quality never varies from Tapply book to Tapply book: It is always excellent. Readable, well-plotted, and interesting. His death last year is a loss to the mystery field.
glauver More than 1 year ago
I used to be a regular Tapply reader but lost touch. I have read three of the later Coyne novels recently. This one is the best of the lot. However, the resolution is a bit weak after a fine set-up. Tapply shows his hand in the introduction and that element of the case undermines a plot about the Iraq war that could have been taken much farther than it is. However, he is a good writer and Brady Coyne is a Lawyer with a conscience who wears well.
Abilene333 More than 1 year ago
An interesting fictional story that brings to light a very real problem that our returning military and their families must often face after combat. Tapply got it right, again. I am sorry that we have lost such a good author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Boston based attorney Brady Coyne is taken aback when Alexandria Shaw enters his office. They were once lovers, but they had not seen one another in seven years. Alexandra asks Brady to represent her brother photojournalist Gus Shaw in his divorce. Brady agrees to meet with Gus who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder following a harrowing experience in Iraq in which he lost his hand. He also says at that time they will decide if he should be his lawyer.-------------------- They talk and in spite of knowing Gus will prove to be at best a difficult withdrawn client, Brady agrees to handle the divorce. However, soon afterward, Gus is dead in what looks like a suicide. Alexandria refuses to accept her sibling killed himself she believes he may have been depressed but would not have taken his life. Reluctantly and questioning his motive for acquiescing, Brady agrees to investigate though he is believes he will only affirm the official ruling.---------------- Although similar to ONE-WAY TICKET as HELL BENT is more an investigative tale than a legal thriller especially after Gus dies, fans of Coyne will enjoy this strong regional mystery. The investigation into whether Gus was murdered or committed suicide is well done although somewhat obvious. However, Coyne¿s inquiry is incredibly illuminating on the impact of the Iraq war on family members of the military. The deep look into those struggling with grief and in some cases sudden poverty while not always coping with deaths that hiding the flag draped coffin from the media does not hide it from the loved ones. Others must deal with physical or mentally hurt soldiers who left healthy and upbeat and return in pain both physical and mental.. Well written and entertaining, William G. Tapply showcases the hidden cost of the Iraq War that those who claim to support the soldier prefer to ignore.-------------------- Harriet Klausner