Third Strike by Philip R. Craig and William G. Tapply

strikeReviewed by Allen Hott

The authors have put together an interesting look at life on Martha’s Vineyard. Third Strike is however a fictional accounting of a union/management battle, which although the battle is the main thread of the book, many more happenings are woven into the book itself.

Two happenings bring together two old friends. One is J.W. Jackson a former Boston cop who now lives on Martha’s Vineyard and the other is a Boston attorney named Brady Coyne. Jackson, with the urging of his wife, is drawn into the investigation of a union seaman’s death on one of the steamships that haul autos and travelers back and forth between “America” (as the Vineyard’s residents call the mainland) and the island. His death was caused by an explosion in the engine room of the steamer and is thought to be an action against the steamship company that went wrong. The sentiment is that the union to cause problems for the management of the steamship lines put the ill-fated action together. However his wife and many of his friends do not believe that he could have been capable of such a deed. His wife who is friendly with J.W.’s wife begs her to have J.W. look into the event.

At almost the same time Brady Coyne receives a phone call from Larry Bucyck, an old friend/client of his who lives on the island. Bucyck has pretty much become a hermit and lives alone on the island after divorcing his wife and leaving her and two children. In the phone call Bucyck, in a very agitated and frightened state, asks Coyne to come to the island as he feels threatened and wants some help.
Coyne calls J.W. for help in getting to the island and J.W. sails to America and picks up Coyne to bring him to Bucyck. After a great dinner and too many drinks, Coyne and Bucyck go to sleep in Bucyck’s austere, primitive setting. In the morning Coyne finds Bucyck dead in the pigpen on the far side of his property.

After Coyne proves his innocence in the murder, he and J.W. team up to work on the two murder cases that now seem to somehow be tied together. As they dig deeper into what Bucyck had related to Coyne and as they interview various island inhabitants, they discover that there are even more sinister events about to occur.

The plot brings in a group who are intent upon creating a major disaster involving the former president of the United States who was asked to come to Martha’s Vineyard to attempt arbitration of the continuing steamship strike.

The authors have used a unique method of writing Third Strike in that one is the voice of J.W. and one is the voice of Brady. And basically they alternate chapters in each voice telling of his part in the entire adventure. It works well as they blend happenings into a well-told story.

Strangely enough William G. Tapply just passed away in July of this year while Craig had passed away about a year ago. Although each had written many books on their own this was the third that they had written as a team.

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