Review: The Girl on the Bridge by James Hayman

The Girl on the Bridge by James Hayman is the latest McCabe and Savage thriller, involving a case of retributive vigilante justice against a group who gang raped a girl at a party twelve years prior.

Joshua Thorne is a highly successful Wall Street mover and shaker. Money coming out of his ears, suits costing more than some automobiles, and one arm probably longer than the other on account of the gold-dripping timepiece welded to his wrist thanks to one bonus after another. The same bonuses have resulted in a swanky New York home with views of Manhattan guaranteed to take your breath away. What can possibly go wrong? 

Nothing … so long as he finishes his drink at the bar in Portland, Maine, goes back to his hotel, tucks himself into bed, and drifts off to sleep to dream of more money. Instead, he buys a drink for a young woman in the bar who seems to share his taste in expensive wrist watches. Before he knows it, he finds himself strapped to a filthy old bed, naked, and in deep trouble. It is clear that his “date” has neither fun and games nor a discussion about the finer points of Swiss watchmaking in mind. Unlike credit card companies, karma doesn’t need a forwarding address.

Mr. Thorne used to be a star quarterback at an upstate New York College twelve years earlier. A member of the cool group everyone wanted to be associated with, he believed he could behave in any way he pleased and get away with it. He wasn’t far off. At a party, seventeen-year-old freshman Hannah Reindel takes a drink and feels strange, unable to control her movements or her thoughts. She is then led upstairs to a room where Joshua Thorne and his buddies are waiting. She is pushed inside, and the door is closed. You can guess the rest. It is not pretty. 

No charges are brought for what happened in that room. The allegations are brushed under the carpet, and Joshua and his pals go on to have rewarding and glittering careers in money land. Hannah, however, spirals into mental illness and despair, eventually staggering down a road from which there is no return—despite the best efforts of Evan Fischer, Hannah’s friend who has stood by her all these years as a result of love, guilt, and a sense of responsibility. 

Joshua Thorne and the modern-day version of the Hellriders have never had to answer for what they did to the unfortunate girl behind that closed door. It looks like Joshua Thorne being strapped to the bed in Portland is the first step to answering for his actions, twelve years down the line. 

Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe of the Portland Police Department has much work to do as it seems someone is out for revenge on the group of people who hurt Hannah all those years ago. Justice belongs in the court room. It is time to talk to Evan Fischer.

A little more than an hour after leaving Portland, they found the turn off Lee’s Hook Road right where Eckridge said it would be. They drove through deep woods on a bumpy and seldom used dirt road that made them thankful for the TrailBlazer’s heavy-duty springs. The road ended a little over a mile in. A rusty Jeep Wrangler and a black Dodge pickup were parked side by side at the end. McCabe pulled the TrailBlazer in behind the Jeep. To their right was a narrower and even rougher dirt path. A sturdy chain was strung between two trees blocking access. A sign hanging from the chain read Private Property. Keep Out. McCabe and Maggie ducked under the chain and started towards Fischer’s cabin.

The path was uneven and heavily wooded on both sides. Mostly big pine and spruce with a scattering of birch and hardwoods. A dark brown log cabin was visible in a small cleared area about a hundred yards in. Wood smoke was drifting from a stone chimney and the scent of it filled the cold air. As they drew nearer, McCabe could see a man’s face peering out of the window to the left of the door. Then the face disappeared and seconds later the door opened. A smallish, painfully thin man wearing jeans, work boots and a heavy wool shirt emerged cradling a deer rifle in his arms.

“Stop right where you are…”

Murder and intrigue are woven deftly into this tale of retribution and revenge by James Hayman. Finely drawn characters step from the pages to show that you don’t have to wander far from your usual life to be out of your comfort zone or, indeed, find yourself in great danger. 

A clever thriller, the book is a sober reminder that whoever you are linked to or associated with will touch your life in one way or another. You can close your eyes to who they are or what they have done, but that is no guarantee that others will do the same. As well as asking what is justice, where does it belong, and who has the right to bring it, the book also brought me to the conclusion that the question of personal responsibility for what happens around you never really goes away. Everyone may have different answers to that question, but the question is always the same. The next time you see someone on a bridge, you may want to think twice about walking on by. I know I will.


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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.

Read all Dirk Robertson’s posts for Criminal Element.


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