Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ken Coffman's Fairhaven

Too many people abuse the term "homage" as a euphemism of "rip off" (I know I'm guilty of this myself, though I use it facetiously). When I use "homage" in this review, its intended use is the proper definition; "respect or reverence paid or rendered."

Ken Coffman's Fairhaven (ISBN: 978-0982773420) is a loving homage to the works of Charles Willeford, specifically the Hoke Mosely series (Miami Blues, Sideswipe, et cetera). The title plays off "The Grimhaven Manuscript" which I described in "Madness in the 20th Century" as:

An early draft for the second book in the Moseley series, New Hope for the Dead, is commonly known as "The Grimhaven Manuscript." Herein we witness Hoke burnt-out from his job as a homicide detective. He begins a quest for "absolutely nothing" and determines that this may best be attained through killing off his ex-wife and two daughters. Needless to say, Willeford's publisher refused the draft. The second (and successful) stab at the sequel, stands as not only the best of the Moseley books but of Willeford's oeuvre.

The Fairhaven of Coffman's title is Charlie Fairhaven, a rest home nursing assistant who finds too much pleasure in euthanizing patients around the Pacific Northwest. Curmudgeonly retired cop Jake Mosby (not to be confused with Hoke Mosely) gets reluctantly involved in the case when one of the customers at his decrepit bookstore dumps it in his lap.

Initially I was afraid that Mosby's grandson, Nort, would become a precocious source of comic relief a la Grandma Mazur from the Stephanie Plum books. Fortunately, Coffman handles Nort and all of the other oddball characters of Fairhaven well. Likewise, Coffman could have made Fairhaven more of a jokey send-up of Willeford. Instead, his references to Willeford's work are brief, appropriate, and appreciated.

Coffman excels at taught, compelling storytelling and has crafted a must-read for mystery enthusiasts, especially Willeford fans.

Buy it at


Kat Sheridan said...

I've read Fairhaven as well and absolutely loved it!If you've read any of his Glen Wilson books you'll find a kindred spirit in Jake.

aries18 said...

I read Fairhaven and just fell in like with Jake! He's my kind of curmudgeon...I've never read the other author you mentioned but I do love Ken Coffman's work. I also recommend any of Coffman's Glen Wilson books.

Post a Comment