BRUCE ROBERT COFFIN | Review of Shamus Dust

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Bruce Robert Coffin is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron mystery series and former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

Recently he was kind enough to review SHAMUS DUST and had this to say:

"SHAMUS DUST is classic literary noir at its finest. A beautifully rendered and intriguing post-war mystery. I absolutely loved the novel. Very impressive."

Coming from the winner of Killer Nashville's Silver Falchion Award for Best Procedural, a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel, and a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Best Crime Fiction Novel (not to mention a highly respected professional detective) I feel that's a great honor.

Quite by chance recently I came across Dale T Philipps' 2016 interview with Bruce. It was a fascinating read and very helpful, not least because like my debut it had taken several years to complete. But what really made me sit up and take note was when he said he also struggled with the voice:

"My first attempt at writing a novel was a several-year process. I wrote 20,000 words in first person before deciding I didn’t like the caged in feeling of that point of view. I started again in third person..."

This was very interesting to me because I'd gone down the same route with my debut, SHAMUS DUST. Except I'd written about the same number of words in third person before I realized I was on the wrong track. SHAMUS DUST is set in 1947 in the single square mile that was and is the City of London. Practically all the scenes take place in its crowded streets, claustrophobic alleyways and bombed-out ruins, and what I wanted was precisely that caged in feeling that goes hand in glove with the first person narrator. And so of course I also started again and wrote the first page.

For as long as I remembered, I’d been sleeping like the dead. Could slip at any hour, in any place, deep into that cool night where the heartbeat crawls and dreams are stilled like small animals in winter. Not on account of some inner serenity or the easy conscience of an unspotted soul. It was a leftover, a habit arrived in a war, when all that counts is to grab at sleep and hold onto it whenever and wherever it offers. It becomes a thing accustomed. So routine you take it as given, right up until the hour it goes missing. Lately, I’d lost the gift. As simple as that. Had reacquainted with nights when sleep stands in shrouds and shifts its weight in corner shadows, unreachable. You hear the rustle of its skirts, wait long hours on the small, brittle rumors of first light, and know that when finally they arrive they will be the sounds that fluting angels make. It was five-thirty, the ragged end of a white night, desolate as a platform before dawn when the milk train clatters through and a guard tolls the names of places you never were or ever hope to be. I was waiting on the fluting angels when the telephone rang. [Shamus Dust, Chapter 1]

Bruce Robert Coffin is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular contributor to Murder Books blogs.You can learn more about Jake and his books at his website and of course you can buy all his books on Amazon

Janet Roger is the author of SHAMUS DUST : HARD WINTER, COLD WAR, COOL MURDER - available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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