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  • Writer's pictureRob Lawton

"Within Plain Sight" by Bruce Robert Coffin

Updated: May 28, 2022

Bruce Coffin created a masterpiece when he wrote his latest book, “Within Plain Sight.” A compelling narrative that grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go until a climax that leaves you breathless. Read further for a more complete review.

The Plot

The mutilated body of a young woman is found in the city of Portland, Maine. Is it the work of a serial killer who is currently terrorizing Boston? Or was the crime committed by someone who knew the victim? Someone closer to home? In this fourth installment of the John Byron series, our favorite Detective Sergeant returns. While he and his team identify a list of possible suspects, they must contend with nosy news reporters, grieving relatives, and internal tensions within their own police department that threaten to undermine their investigation.

Our Thoughts

The author is a former detective sergeant with the Maine Police Department, who supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. That experience injects a level of authenticity into all the John Byron novels that gives the reader a heady dose of how violent crimes are solved.

What I love most about Coffin’s style is the way he gradually metes out the details, one piece at a time, so the reader doesn’t have the complete picture until the final reveal. For example, I learned of a gruesome discovery from the very beginning of the book, but had no had idea what made it so gruesome. At first, I didn’t even know if a crime had been committed. Slowly, as investigators converged on the scene, I got bits and pieces, in the form of different reactions from different characters. I was unable to put down the book until it was clear what they could see, and I could not. By the end of that scene, I was delighted and horrified at the same time. This style is maintained throughout the book, delivering a story with enough twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end.

This is NOT a book I would describe as a cozy mystery. However, there is no gratuitous sex or violence on the pages. Similar to other John Byron novels, the reader learns about alcoholism and the effects of that affliction.

As a Maine resident, I loved the numerous references to Portland. I was especially delighted to see my favorite diner mentioned more than once. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to read the book. Then you can check out this restaurant for yourself and have one of the best breakfasts you’ve ever eaten.

Readers can start with the first book and gradually work their way up to “Within Plain Sight.” In my opinion however, the book stands on its own and can be enjoyed without any of the background provided by the first three novels.

Whatever you decide, there is a good reason Bruce Coffin won the Maine literary prize for crime fiction. Whether you start with book number one, or book number four, I'm confident you will eventually want to read all of them.

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