Breaking Faith

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Maynard F. Thomson’s first Nason Nichols novel was TRADE SECRETS (1993). His second novel, BREAKING FAITH, begins with a news clipping that details developer Timothy R. “Tip” Finn’s alleged financial problems as well as Mayor Conor O’Conor’s scholarship program for high school students of South Boston. Both the financial problems of the Seaside Project and the scholarship program figure strongly in the novel’s climatic conclusion.

Nason Nichols, or Nase to his friends, is a private investigator working undercover for a taxi-cab company plagued by a string of robberies. Nase gets lucky and manages to pick up the suspect, but is foiled when he encounters a police barricade in Washington Park, the scene of a rally over the death of Purnell Whitmore. A young black man, Whitmore was brutally murdered and found in a dumpster in the alley behind his home. The rally is primarily against Commissioner Francis “Dapper” Flanagan’s task force, “Blue Tornado,” a task force dedicated to ridding the Roxbury streets of drug dealers.

The tension escalates when a witness reports seeing Whitmore talking to a white police officer at the entrance of the alley where his body was found. Mayor O’Conor appoints a specific committee in charge of overseeing the police department’s investigation. Nichols’ friend, Bucky Hanrahan, talks Nichols into meeting one of Mayor O’Conor’s supporters. Soon Nichols becomes entangled in the brewing political scandal that finally explodes in violence and betrayal.

Thomson’s writing is crisp and exciting, reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett and Micky Spillane. His characters are believable and the situations recognizable, if not uncomfortably familiar, to many readers. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Thomson’s novel, BREAKING FAITH, asks the question, “Where do we draw the line?” Thomson’s characters face this question time and time again.