Crime, Punishment And Decoys

By: Debra Lawless

Matt Fitzpatrick. COURTESY PHOTO

Two Local Authors Spin Tough Mystery Stories

Fans of Paul Kemprecos’s Aristotle “Soc” Socarides series are in for a big treat — “Soc” is back in Kemprecos’s first-ever short story, “The Sixth Decoy,” which is set partly in Harwich and features a lost decoy carved by Elmer Crowell.

The short story is included in “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A Suspense Magazine Anthology” (Suspense Publishing, 2020) edited by Jeffery Deaver. The book includes 13 short stories.

“Elmer Crowell had been dead more than a half century before the golden, late fall day when I crossed paths with his ghost,” is how Kemprecos begins the story. Crowell, who died in 1952, gained posthumous fame when some of his decoys sold for more than $1 million in 2007. “The Sixth Decoy” refers to the sixth, missing decoy in a set of six half-scale models that, according to Soc’s peculiar client, would be worth several million dollars if the set were put back together.

“Elmer Crowell had been kicking around in the back of my mind for a while,” Kemprecos said during a telephone interview last week. “I’ve always been aware of Crowell — what masterpieces he turned out, this homespun guy in Harwich.” When Kemprecos works out the plot to his mysteries, he is always looking for an object of value that’s going to incite someone to violence. With the decoy, he found it — “right in my backyard.”

Kemprecos, who lives in Dennisport, did research by visiting Crowell’s barn, which is now at the Harwich Historical Society. (The society makes a cameo appearance in the story.) Eventually “Soc” solves the mystery.

Kemprecos has written eight installments now of the Soc series, the latest of which is “Shark Bait” (2018). He is currently writing a ninth, in which Soc — whom he describes as “an ex-cop, diver, Cape Cod fisherman and private eye” — might take a trip to Crete. But his next release will be an intriguing stand-alone mystery called “Killing Icarus,” probably to be released later this year by Suspense Publishing. This features Kemprecos’s first female protagonist, an art historian living in a cottage in Truro who gets “drawn into a mess with wide ramifications” when she finds a clue to a WWII mystery in a sketch by Edward Hopper, who summered in Truro.

For 25 years Kemprecos worked in the Cape newspaper business. Early on, he got a boost from a blurb by Clive Custler, who wrote, “There can be no better mystery writer in America today than Paul Kemprecos.” Kemprecos later teamed up with Custler in writing the bestselling “NUMA Files” series.

“Nothing Good Happens After Midnight” will be released on Nov. 17, and is available for pre-order through Yellow Umbrella Books, 508-945-0144.

If Soc lives in a ramshackle converted boathouse with a “million dollar water view,” author Matt Fitzpatrick’s hero Justin McGee lives on a 50-foot sport fishing yacht called Free Lance. Fitzpatrick, who lives in Chatham, is back with a second book in his Justin McGee crime trilogy called “Matriarch Game” (Green Place Books, 2020). The first book, “Crosshairs: A Justin McGee Mystery” debuted in 2018.

In “Crosshairs,” McGee was a Boston attorney who moonlights at an intriguing second job: assassin. As “Matriarch Game” opens, we’re looking back a year to when McGee was on trial in a Barnstable County courtroom. The charge? “Murder-one, in broad daylight, in the presence of children.” The grotesque courtroom scene turns out to be a recurring nightmare.

In the present, McGee is on the lam, hiding out in Jekyll Island, Ga., where “the mosquitoes bit like hacksaws.” In a disquieting turn of events, Marlene Dunn, the district attorney whom McGee thought he had killed, has located him and turns up in a restaurant. She even knows what con McGee is currently running — a counterfeit money scheme. And she wants revenge. “I want to take over your world. Your money. Your will. Even your soul, if you pretend to have one.” She wants to be his full partner in crime.

Naturally, the pair turn from counterfeiting to a crime that is much worse and much more lucrative: a “murderous version of the [expletive deleted] Mayflower.” They team up with disreputable characters such as Gerbil Turner, lover of violence, and Captain Shark Bertolami. The action shifts from a seedy boatyard on Jekyll Island to Miami to the Bahamas.

“They’re all bad people doing bad things,” Fitzpatrick says about his characters. “I like the crime space. It will always have an appeal.”

To research this underworld, Fitzpatrick interviewed a former enforcer for Boston’s Angiulo crime family, and says they remain in touch. Fitzpatrick worked for 25 years in finance and lived on the North Shore. With his divorce, “I went through a life change,” he says. A father of two college-age daughters, he took up writing, a dream since he was 12. His favorite author is John D. MacDonald, whose protagonist, Travis McGee, lives on, yes, a houseboat.

Fitzpatrick says he has already completed the third book in the trilogy — a book in which a “real life epidemic” plays a role.

Fitzpatrick will sign “Crosshairs” at Yellow Umbrella Books, 501 Main St., Chatham on Sunday, Sept. 6 starting at 1 p.m. The book, which will be released on Aug. 31, is also available for pre-order through the store. For more information, call the store at 508-945-0144.