Archive for September, 2010

Best Review Yet for “The Chill of Night”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

For those of you who missed Lloyd Ferriss’s review of The Chill of Night in the August 29th edition of the Portland Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, here it is in its entirety. By the way, the review was only available in the print version of the paper.

Maine Sunday Telegram,  Sunday, August 29, 2010


Captivating detective again hunts a Maine killer


Readers of James Hayman’s second mystery novel are in for a treat.

He delivers a cast of tantalizingly complex characters. The setting of his book – Portland and its environs – is so accurately described that you practically see detective Michael McCabe driving familiar snow-covered streets in a city threatened by a psychopath.

McCabe, a fictional ace detective of the Portland Police department, is the hero of Hayman’s first novel, “The Cutting” (2009). He returns in the aptly named “The Chill of Night.”

McCabe’s a dynamo of focused energy, so intent on finding the slayer of young attorney Lainie Goff that his own girlfriend, Kyra, moves out of their shared apartment to escape his single-track involvement in the case.

A former New York detective, McCabe is blessed with a photographic mind. If he’s handed a slip of paper with a phone number, he glances at it once, then tosses the paper away. The number is stored in his brain forever. McCabe can memorize the contents of a room in a flash, or absorb the content of a letter left on a suspect’s desk.

But McCabe has his problems. He has a love-hate relationship with his ex-wife. He’s proud of his girlfriend, a Yale educated, up-and-coming Portland artist, yet daunted by her cultured upbringing.

The detective teeters on the edge of alcoholism, but is kept on track by his police partner, the memorable Maggie Savage.

Hayman’s mystery opens on a bitterly cold afternoon a couple of days before Christmas. Attorney Goff waits alone in the downtown high-rise that houses the prestigious law firm where she works. She plans to leave the next day for a two-week vacation on Aruba. But she waits to learn if the directors of Palmer Milliken, conferring at a meeting before the holiday, name her a partner in the firm.

Though in her mid-20’s, young to be a partner, Goff is already a capable lawyer. She’s also intimate with the firm’s managing partner, Henry “Hank” Ogden. Hayman describes him as: “Her mentor. Her boss. Her lover. Elegant. Rich, 53 years old. And very, very married.”

As we find in the book’s first few pages, Goff isn’t voted in as a full partner. Neither does she go to Aruba.

Days go by before her naked, frozen body is found stuffed in the trunk of her Mercedes Benz on the Portland waterfront.

As the who-dun-it plot unfolds, one comes to admire Hayman as a genius of suspenseful writing. His main character, McCabe, fingers half a dozen prime suspects in Goff’s death. There’s Ogden, for one. Another is an ex-priest who runs a refuge for homeless teens. There’s “the hotdog man” who sells drugs on the side (Goff was among his customers), and a creepy landlord who put video cameras in every room of Goff’s apartment.

A wonderfully drawn character, pivotal to the novel’s outcome is a young schizophrenic who grew up on Harts Island. Abby Quinn evokes reader sympathy as she’s plagued by voices in her head. But that’s not all she has to worry about.

Like his fictional police detective, Hayman moved from New York City to Maine several years ago. Unlike the detective, he previously worked in a New York advertising agency. Hayman and his wife, artist Jeanne O’Toole, live on Peaks Island.

“The Chill of Night” is an engrossing, character-driven novel. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, has to do with the length of the book and the number of murder suspects.

But there’s nothing tedious about this mystery. It’s a page-turner. All 352 of them.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.

George Clooney in The American: Looks great. Goes nowhere.

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In the mood for a good thriller, my wife Jeanne and I went to see George Clooney’s latest star turn, The American.  All I can say is don’t bother.  While I don’t normally write movie reviews, I do write thrillers and, as a thriller-writer, I expect a thriller to have a plot.  Not necessarily a great plot.  Not even a good plot.  But at least some plot.

The American doesn’t.  The movie consists of little more than two hours of mindless violence where people run around shooting each other for no discernible reason. The shootings are mostly interrupted by scenes of Clooney driving around Italy, sitting in cafes drinking coffee and removing his shirt and showing off his muscles by doing pushups and chin-ups.

The film is not without some redeeming qualities.  The scenery in and around the mountainous region of Italy’s Abruzzo  is stunning.  The cinematography is first rate, maybe even good enough to snag Director of Photography Martin Ruhe an Oscar nomination.  But, as Gertrude Stein once said of her return to her childhood home in Oakland, California, when it comes to a story line, “there is no there there.”

For me, your typical post-middle-aged heterosexual male, the single most enjoyable thing about The American was the frequency with which a gorgeous young Italian actress named  Violante Placido removes her clothing and runs around in the nude. If you feel that’s enough to justify spending twenty bucks or more on a pair of tickets, go for it.  Otherwise, as I said before, don’t bother.