During the 1970’s, with the mystery novels of Robert B. Parker and William G. Tapply, Boston emerged as a fertile territory for the growth and development of detective fiction. Jeremiah Healy, who settled in Boston around that time after receiving a law degree from Harvard University, combined keen powers of observation and a strong sense of place to create novels that might be seen as the East Coast counterpart to the San Francisco-based mysteries of Stephen Greenleaf, featuring John Marshall “Marsh” Tanner. Like Tanner, Healy’s John Cuddy is a hard-boiled loner and bears the emotional scars of the Vietnam War. Significantly, both Tanner and Cuddy managed to hold their own against such emerging feminine competition as Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski. These four writers, along with a handful of others, may be seen as the 1980’s generation in mystery and detective fiction, producing novels that are often grimly realistic while remaining idealistic and that contain a strong element of social observation and criticism.
To an even greater degree than Greenleaf, Healy excels at the creation of colorful, memorable secondary characters, from athletic trainers and journalists to prostitutes and gangsters. Rather early in the series, he provided Cuddy with a secondary love interest, Assistant District Attorney Nancy Meagher (pronounced “Mah-har”), who like Cuddy is a native of South Boston. As the series progresses, Meagher often acts as a foil for Cuddy, either questioning his judgment or causing him to avoid conflicts of interest between them.