Book review: ‘Back Bay Blues’ by Peter Colt

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Andy Roark is a Vietnam veteran. He had done the dangerous reconnaissance work required for air strikes on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There were many casualties in recon work, and he often felt guilty that he wasn’t one of them. As a civilian, he found that private detective work allowed him to use his skills and still be mainly his own boss.

Roark felt guilty that his country had abandoned those Vietnamese that had fought for the United States. He had been most alive when he was doing his part in the war. He still felt most comfortable in the company of those who had escaped and come to the United States. For that reason, he had developed a friendship with a Vietnamese restaurant owner and felt that Nguyen’s family was now his family. That relationship may be why he was asked by young Vietnamese woman to investigate her uncle’s murder.

He was also learned that there had been a second Vietnamese murder in the immediate vicinity. As part of the investigation, Roark became aware that there was a refugee movement to overthrow the Communist government. In fact, they were pressuring business owners to help finance the endeavor. Roark also discovered that with the fall of Saigon, the treasury was turned into gold bars and smuggled out via ship. But what did this have to do with the murdered uncle? As it turned out, quite a lot.

The uncle, Hieu Tam, had been a reporter. The refugee movement went by the name “The Committee.” Hieu’s reporting had first been very supportive, but lately Hieu’s stories had begun to question where the money was going, as no effort seemed to be made against the Communist government. And now he had been killed. And the second Vietnamese homicide was Hieu’s long-time friend, who had been an Asian import/export agent. The deaths seemed to be the work of The Committee, but the reason remained unclear. To make matters worse, Roark himself now was a target, and clarification was going to take some travel on Roark’s part.

“Back Bay Blues” is part of an “Andy Roak” mystery series. This particular book seems intent on emphasizing the adjustment problems of Vietnam vets. The reviews included on the book jacket compare it to earlier “tough detective” novels. The women are written from a very male point of view.

Addendum: There will be no review of “Tomboy Land.” Some will be interested in reading it, however. It discusses personal tendencies seldom presented in writing: Melissa Faliveno has written an ode to Wisconsin while describing her experiences having both male and female inclinations.

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