Cover image for Orion rising : an Owen Keane mystery
Orion rising : an Owen Keane mystery
Faherty, Terence.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
250 pages ; 22 cm
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Years after a nurse is raped and beaten, James Murray is murdered, a newspaper clipping about the rape left on his body. When DNA testing confirms that Murray was the rapist, Murray's college classmate, driven by his own guilty knowledge of the 1969 attack, sets out to find his murderer.

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Publisher's Weekly Review

The seventh in a series of moody, thoughtful and doggedly low-key mysteries finds amateur crime solver Owen Keene dealing with a puzzle from his past. The intellectually astute, if career-impaired, Keene was a college kid in Boston at the end of the 1960s. Now it's 1995, and his old college chum James Courtney Murray is an apparent murder victim. Murray was the prime suspect in the 1969 rape of Francine Knaff, a local nurse. Recent DNA tests point to Murray's guiltÄbut Keene was also a suspect in the rape, as was fellow collegian Harry Ohlman. Continual flashbacks detail Keene's college romance with Mary Fitzgerald, the girl Ohlman eventually won, rather than developing Murray's character, which remains enigmatic to the end. Keene has a lot of guilt to work through in this novel, and the narrative takes its sweet time getting to a resolution. Throughout, Faherty stresses characterization over mayhem. The identity of Murray's killer isn't a major revelation, but Faherty packs a lot of supplemental detail into the explanation of the crimeÄjust the kind of emotional detritus that Owen Keene has made a career (of sorts) out of wallowing in. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One "YOU REALLY OUGHT TO GET A LIFE, OWEN."     Harry Ohlman had made the crack an hour ago, when he'd picked me up at the apartment I was renting in downtown New Brunswick. While he'd been standing in the apartment's living room, to be more specific, kicking at the newspapers that were keeping the carpet safe from dust.     "I've had one, thanks," I'd said.     At the time, it had seemed like comeback enough. Now, as we crossed the glittering Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge, a crossing I'd made often but never without the feeling that the river's true name was Rubicon, I wished I'd said something else. Something different. It wasn't the quality of the line I'd used that bothered me. No better one had suggested itself since. I was haunted by the fear that the claim I'd made to Harry simply wasn't true.     It was March 1995. We were driving from New Jersey to Boston, Massachusetts. To Boston College, our shared alma mater. Ostensibly we were going so Harry could oversee the audit of some accounts belonging to the alumni organization he headed up, Friends of the Eagle. In that scenario, I was along as relief driver or maybe just comic relief. In reality, we were making the drive on a crisp clear Sunday because a man named James Courtney Murray had recently been found shot to death in the office of his small accounting firm.     Murray had been the treasurer of Friends of the Eagle, a coincidence that had inspired our cover story. It was certainly a coincidence. No one believed that Murray's volunteer work for the college had anything to do with his murder. No one believed his own work as a CPA had, for that matter. His killer had eliminated the need for speculation by leaving an old newspaper clipping on Murray's body, a clipping that described the brutal rape and beating of a nurse named Francine Knaff in March 1969 near Cleveland Circle, not far from the Boston College campus.     So I had more important things to think about than a stray insult of Harry's. But still, as the New York exits on the interstate gave way to Connecticut exits, I dwelt on the words "get a life," perhaps because they were easier to think about than James Courtney Murray.     It occurred to me that I might have done better at the apartment if I'd tossed Harry's words back at him. A widower married to a law firm he hated, Harry was a candidate for a little life enrichment himself. True, he was raising a teenage daughter, Amanda, or, as it sometimes seemed to me, being raised by her. And he was always involved with a woman, sometimes very involved. More than one had been sent his way by Amanda, a born matchmaker. But none of her schemes had worked out in the end. Harry always balked at the final fence, as his daughter, a veteran rider, had once put it. Although I knew perfectly well why he balked, I asked him about his latest failure now. As a payback, you might say. The latest in our long exchange of paybacks.     "What's happening with Lisa, the investment counselor?"     Harry swung the Lexus around a Suburban that was itself smacking the speed limit in the teeth. "Her name is Lena, and she's an investment banker. I'd explain the difference to you, if I thought you were really interested."     "I'm interested in how you two are doing."     "We're not."     I glanced over at Harry to see how I was doing, to see whether I'd made an impression.. His face was a little red, but then it tended to be red, especially his broad straight nose and his cheeks, which waxed or waned with his weight. They were waning today, which fit with what Amanda had told me: Lena was an exercise nut who worked Harry hard. He wasn't thin and never would be--the big sedan's driver's seat was pushed back to the stops--but he'd sweated off much of the paunch he'd been lugging around since the eighties.     I checked the skin of his scalp, plainly visible through the remains of his dark hair, and decided I could safely push him a little further. "That's too bad. I was hoping she was the one."     "I bet you were," Harry said. "If I didn't know you so well, Owen, I'd think you were trying to free Mary up for some rendezvous in the afterlife."     So much for the reliability of Harry's epidermis. Mary was his wife, dead now for almost ten years. Dead but not forgotten by either of us. She was the reason Harry couldn't commit himself to another woman. My relationship with Mary was also ongoing, but less well defined.     Harry's mention of the afterlife would have sounded equally vague to an eavesdropper, had there been one around. Actually, it was very much to the point, an example of the kind of shorthand old friends use, an economical reference to a singular failure in my past: my unsuccessful attempt to become a priest. I couldn't be counting on some fleecy heaven where I might yet steal Mary away from Harry, not me, not Owen Keane.     I could have countered by saying there's a big difference between believing and hoping, as big as between waking and dreaming. I could have just said touché. I didn't say anything.     "We should be talking about Murray," Harry said. "You read the clippings I sent you."     It wasn't a question, but I answered it anyway. "I read them."     Harry must not have believed me. He started in on a summation of the case. He'd taken off his topcoat and sports jacket back in New Brunswick, but he still wore his gloves. They were thin and tight on his large hands, driving gloves in fact if not exactly in style. Harry tapped the steering wheel in a regular rhythm with his right hand as he spoke.     "Murray was working late a week ago Monday. Two weeks ago tomorrow. He was alone, as he always was in the office unless a client came by. His secretary quit a year ago to get married, and he never replaced her. Probably he couldn't afford to replace her. His business had never done very well.     "That wasn't in the paper," Harry added, in case I was anxious on the point. "I picked that up working with him on the Friends of the Eagle deal. I tried to get some kind of salary set up for him, tried to make him a staff member and not a volunteer, but he wouldn't hear of it. Too much self-respect."     That might have been another poke at me, a man who had supped more than once at the Ohlman trough. Or it might just have been Harry being sensitive and insensitive in the same breath. I didn't trouble myself to find out.     "Murray was staying late to meet a new client. Or someone he thought was a new client. He had an appointment noted on his desk calendar for seven that evening. All he'd written next to the time was `Mr. Knaff.' There were no Knaffs in Murray's files, so it wasn't an established relationship. The police are figuring the killer used the promise of new business to keep Murray at his desk late, when there'd be less risk of someone in a neighboring office heating the shots. They're still checking on the name, but it's likely to be a phony, a reference to Francine Knaff that Murray may or may not have picked up on."     Harry changed lanes again and then said, "I don't know whether you or I would have picked up on it, for that matter. Not after twenty-six years. And we have better reason to remember that name than Murray did."     I was looking out the window. The stretch of highway we were on had been cut through an established neighborhood, laying bare a dizzying succession of backyards. I saw swing sets, tree forts, still-winterized swimming pools, scrap heaps hidden behind little sheds. Hidden from everyone but me. I thought of pictures I'd seen of bombed buildings, one wall gone, every room as open as a dollhouse's to the view of the world.     "When Murray didn't make it home by ten," Harry continued, "his wife, Brita, started calling his office. I guess she also called a bar or two where he'd been known to stop after work. Finally, she got hold of the private security company that patrolled the little complex where Murray rented his office. One of their men found his body. He'd been shot six times at close range."     My silence finally got to Harry. "Are you listening, Owen?"     "Murray was shot with a revolver at close range," I said, without looking away from. the scenery.     "I didn't mention a revolver. Neither did the police."     "Almost every revolver hold six shots. Almost every semiautomatic holds more than six. The killer fired until his gun was empty. That's what you'd do if you were avenging a woman who'd been beaten to death. Or pretending to avenge one."     "I liked it better when you were daydreaming." Harry's sarcastic permission for me to daydream might have triggered the memory. It had been waiting in the wings of my consciousness, crowded there with dozens of others, each watching for an opening ever since the news of Murray's death had reached me. I'd resisted them all until now. In a way, I still resisted, since the vision that took the place of the blurry Connecticut landscape had nothing to do with Murray or even 1969.     It was close, though. 1968. The fall of sixty-eight. Our freshman year at Boston College. Mine and Harry's and Mary's. I couldn't place the month. October? November? It was raining. I could see the rain on Commonwealth Avenue's black pavement, see it pooling in depressions in the granite curbing, each micropuddle reflecting the streetlights, making the stretch of curb where I stood look like gold-bearing ore. I could smell the rain, feel it pasting my hair--my shoulder-length hair--to my forehead and ears.     I was waiting under a tree that still had most of its leaves. I could hear them passing the raindrops to one another before depositing them on me. Beyond the trees on the other side of the avenue was Boston College, much of it out of sight below the crest of the hill atop which Commonwealth ran. I couldn't see Gasson Hall's great homed owl of a tower through the trees and the gloom, but I heard its clock strike nine.     Mary Fitzgerald was late. We'd agreed to meet opposite the main entrance to the campus at eight-thirty to wait for the Oldsmobile Bandit, as the television stations had dubbed the man who was robbing female hitchhikers around the greater Boston area. We were going to do more than wait for him. We were going to trap him.     I thought I'd worked out enough of a pattern in the bandit's crimes to make trapping him possible. He only struck on weeknights, usually late in the week, Thursday being his favorite day. He also liked bad weather, perhaps because it increased the number of hitchhikers, not that there was ever a shortage around Boston. He picked up lone women, almost always between nine and eleven o'clock. Picked them up, drove them a few blocks, robbed them, and let them go. His nickname came from the car he always drove, a metallic green two-door Oldsmobile whose license plate was always obscured by mud. The car seemed to be more memorable than the man, who was only described as white and slender and blond-haired.     The Oldsmobile Bandit worked the college campuses, maybe on the theory that hitchhikers enrolled in expensive schools might actually have a little money. He'd most recently struck at Boston University and Northwestern. He hadn't hit Boston College since early September. I had a feeling he was due back.     So I'd talked Mary, a coed from my apartment building dorm, a coed I was slightly more than friends with, into helping me catch the bandit. My clever plan was to wait on likely nights in likely spots for him to come along. Mary would hitchhike, and I would hide nearby, ready to step out whenever a car stopped. It was a ruse couples often used to snag a ride, although we weren't planning to get into any cars that night. I just wanted a look at the driver and his grimy license plate. Toward that end, I carried a flashlight tucked up the sleeve of my now sodden windbreaker.     I was tempted to take the flashlight out when I saw a figure coming toward me, climbing the hill from the trolley stop opposite St. Ignatius Church. It was the direction from which Mary should have been coming, but this wasn't Mary, wasn't a woman. I didn't relax until I recognized my roommate, Harry, and then I didn't relax much. There was nothing that reassuring about his expression or his greeting.     "She's not coming, Owen. I bumped into Mary just now on her way out of the dorm. She told me all about this dumb-ass scheme of yours. I told her I'd come instead."     "It won't work with you," I said. For one thing, Harry had a moustache, a heavy one whose ends grew well below the corners of his mouth.     "It won't work period," Harry said. "What the hell are you using for brains? Why would you bait a trap for a creep with a girl you know? With any girl?"     "He's never hurt anyone."     "He's never been threatened by anyone. And your bandit's not the only shithead working this city. It's stupid for any girl to be hitchhiking alone."     "That's why I'm here," I said. I started to explain the whole setup to him then, the parts Mary must have left out. Harry cut me off.     "You? You were going to protect her? Let me show you something."     He swung a lazy left at me. I blocked it easily with my right arm, aided by the flashlight splint in my sleeve. But the left was only a feint. With his right hand, Harry pushed against my chest. Somehow, he'd gotten his right foot hooked behind my left one. Though he hadn't pushed me hard, I went down that way, striking my head against the tree trunk behind me and shattering the flashlight's lens against the stone curb.     "That's how much help you'd be to Mary if you ever got her in a dangerous situation," Harry said. "Damn little."     He held his hand out to me. "Come on. Let's go home."