There are nine Doc Adams Thrillers by North Carolina writer Rick Boyer. Cape Cod Bay, Greater Boston and environs are treated in loving detail throughout the series. I have read novels one, five and seven. THE WHALE'S FOOTPRINTS (1988) is number five.
I enjoyed number five a bit better than number one (BILLINGSGATE SHOAL - 1982). That is perhaps because author Boyer spent so much time in BILLINGSGATE SHOAL introducing his characters that my mind wandered from the plot and the huge dollops of rough and tumble action. Now, it's different: before even turning a page of THE WHALE'S FOOTPRINTS, I know I am in a series. I know whom to expect to revisit. Just as I would with a Dagwood and Blondie cartoon or one of Alexandre Dumas's THREE MUSKETEERS yarns.
--There is 50-ish Doc Adams, dental surgeon, just past his first mid-life crisis. There is his sexy wife Mary. They have two college age sons. We will meet once more Doc's philanthropic psychiatrist buddy Moe Abrams, also an ex Special Forces Lithuanian-American that Doc works out with in a Boston gym, and on and on.
So we should have more time in THE WHALE'S FOOTPRINTS to concentrate on unraveling the plot. Doc's son Jack is a murder suspect. He and another young man named Andy Cunningham are temp-ing one summer at privately owned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) at the southwest corner of Cape Cod. And both young men had loved a young whale watcher named Alice. Andy dies after taking a fatal combination of prescription medicines. To get his son off the hook, Doc Adams has to find the real killer. Clues lead him not just to beautiful Alice but also to Professor Hartzell, a mad scientist who thinks his students are trying to steal his ideas.
If the not terribly complicated murder mystery does not hold you, there is plenty about whales. Young Jack's love of the giant beasts dates from 1970 when he was six and pilot whales were stranded on a beach near Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Now murder suspect Jack is studying whales as a researcher at the WHOI. Every whale, Jack tells us, has a unique identifying mark, including the ripple patterns they make when they "sound" or dive. Those ripples are their unique "footprints," as unique as fingerprints for humans. Whale's footprints are made a conscious metaphor for the novel's plots in which clues appear, disappear beneath the surface and reappear elsewhere.
THE WHALE'S FOOTPRINTS is a better than average detection thriller. If you care about Doc's family, that gives you an extra motive to root for young Jack. And if you love whales, well this novel might come across as MOBY DICK lite!
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