Relative Stranger

The sins of a late father wreak havoc in a locally set mystery.


Corrupted Memory by Ray Daniel

Published by Midnight Ink, 336 pages, $15

Hard as it would be to discover that your late father had a secret second family, it’s far worse to find your hitherto unknown half brother murdered on your doorstep. That’s what happens to computer programmer Aloysius Tucker, the narrator of Boston author Ray Daniel’s second crime novel, whose awkward moniker stings all the more when he learns that his half brother was named “John” after their father. The men shared more than a name: Both worked as engineers at a military aerospace company. And our hero finds a panoply of happy photographs that makes it painfully clear that John got the better deal when he was growing up.

It turns out that John’s mom was Tucker’s childhood baby sitter, and before long she too turns up dead, putting Tucker and his own mother, a nutty hoarder, under suspicion. We learn that the second family was far from John Sr.’s only secret, and Tucker—along with his girlfriend Lucy and protective private investigator friend Jael—becomes embroiled in his father’s dealings with spies and bribes. That includes encounters with his uncle Sal, who preaches about saccharine Italian family values while recklessly participating in a bloody Boston underworld. With an urbane suaveness in observation and dialogue, Daniel paints the wildest of scenes as criminals threaten Tucker, who remains witty and soulful amid the uproar.

From page 88:  The crazy we grow up with is like a pair of dirty underwear that lies unnoticed in the bathroom until we realize that a guest has seen them. Then we see our shabby world through their eyes and feel the shame that we probably should have felt all along. My humiliated blush hid my mother’s red fingermarks on my cheek.

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