The Off-Islander - Peter Colt

Andy Roark is just a guy doing the best he can. A stint in Vietnam left him a changed man & after a short career as a cop, he decided it would be better to work for himself as a PI. So he picks & chooses low level cases that support his simple life.


Andy & best friend Danny Sullivan grew up in the tough area of Boston known as Southie. While Andy went off to war, Danny went to college & became a successful lawyer. So what if most of his clients are of the “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” variety. He’s living the high life, baby & he’s got a job for his old pal.


Deborah Swift is a wealthy woman whose husband is a rising political star. When she was a child, her father went out for cigarettes & never came back. He was last seen a decade ago around Cape Cod & she needs someone to find out what became of him. Discretely. God forbid he pop back up during the election & cause a scandal.


Discretion is Andy’s middle name & not only will it give him a break from cheating spouses, it means a huge payday. All he has to do is hand over his findings to Danny & collect the cheque. Deal.


Ah, if only it were that simple. Andy’s search for Charles Hammond eventually leads him to Nantucket & it’s not long before he realizes there is more to Hammond’s story than he was told.


What follows is a well written slow burn kind of suspense with a moody, noirish feel. Initially there’s this vague sense of unease, something you can’t quite put your finger on, that makes you want Andy to watch his back. He’s a compelling character with a firm code of ethics who would rather do what’s right instead of what’s legal.


The book is set in 1982 & reflects the culture of the time. Vietnam vets still hesitate to mention they fought & no one has heard of PTSD. Andy’s scars are invisible & he’s carefully curated a solitary existence that helps him cope with the psychological tics he brought home. He & Danny are polar opposites. They’re bound by their shared childhood history & I found myself wondering if they’d be friends if they met now. Because Danny is kind of a dick. Mind you, he has a few things on his plate. Life as a mob lawyer can be a little stressful & as his behaviour becomes more erratic you begin to question why this case matters so much.


I really enjoyed this. The search for Hammond has plenty of forks in the road to challenge your detective skills but it’s time with Andy that kept me reading. He’s a good man with flaws who is just trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t always make sense. He’s struggling to figure out who he is now & over the course of the story you watch as he slowly accepts that maybe you really can’t go home again.


The pace picks up for the last quarter as all is revealed including the darker sides of Andy’s character. It’s a case that makes him face some hard truths & I’d like to meet up with him again to see where he goes from here. If you enjoy the style of authors such as Robert B. Parker, Douglas Skelton & Malcolm Mackay, give this a shot.