Image of Westport
Release Date: 
May 21, 2024
Mysterious Press
Reviewed by: 

“As in many of the best series in the genre, Comey offers a strong and generous protagonist who’s justifiably optimistic about long-term friendship and loyalty.”

Follow the money, and with this second crime novel from former FBI director James Comey, that means entering a world of hedge funds, investments that skate close to the illegal, and power-hungry colleagues ready to frame you for murder. That’s what it looks like to Nora Carleton in the posh Connecticut coastal town of Westport. An hour’s drive from New York City and her earlier job for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the location promises a better life for Nora’s daughter Sophie—with a great education, safety, and nearby beaches.

Nora’s new employer, Saugatuck Associates, also fits the pretty package. She sees them as “brilliant, honest, and sometimes funny,” working ridiculous hours to move money around for clients and themselves. Her role as general counsel for the firm should be relatively simple and direct, since the company’s leadership frames truth-telling as the highest value.

But of course, that’s the surface. Beyond her great mentor at the company, chief operating officer Helen Carmichael, Nora’s catching an occasional whiff of friction among the hedge fund’s second tier of leaders. Still, she’s far from prepared when Helen’s dead body is found in Nora’s own (admittedly shared) canoe—and in short order, a murder frame is fitted to Nora and her life.

Comey’s first crime novel, Central Park West, positioned Nora and her unconventional family structure in the gritty city and dipped heavily into the author’s FBI background. Explanations of surveillance and acronyms often distracted from the twists of the first book’s Mob-related court scenes and investigations.

So it’s great to see Comey come into his own in Westport as both plot-driven and character intensive. As in many of the best series in the genre, Comey offers a strong and generous protagonist who’s justifiably optimistic about long-term friendship and loyalty. And that’s because Nora has already chosen well, with Manhattan investigator Benny Dugan and attorney Carmen Garcia quickly on scene, determined to extricate her from the frame-up.

When Nora offers Benny a tutorial in the admittedly odd dynamics of Saugatuck Associates, laying out how the employer’s code words can empty meaning from a discussion, Benny’s not a fan of the lesson: “Look, coach, I appreciate you, but somebody pulled that sh** on me, they can just go f*** themselves. I’m not a member of this cult.” Nora’s getting her first full laugh in quite a while from this one, and praises Benny’s approach: “I’m not sure Saugatuck knows what’s coming.”

Westport runs longer than many novels in the genre, but in short chapters that make it feel like easy reading. Those who’ve honed their fictional crime-solving skills in the genre will discover the villain fairly early in the book, but Comey provides plenty of suspense, even putting Nora’s little daughter into danger. Final scenes are intense, if also a bit unlikely; between them, Nora and Benny will rely more on communication than on FBI-style tricks, and that’s the evidence for Comey’s own growth as an author.

For anyone who’s noted the harsh contrast of Connecticut’s wealthiest locations that neighbor its roughest cities, Westport is also a jab in the teeth of the self-satisfaction of those mansions and extensive green spaces, demonstrating that greed and malice can erupt in violence at any social level. Comey’s earlier work showed some similarity in playing Manhattan neighborhoods against each other. Clearly this is an ongoing series, so it’s intriguing to wonder which locale he’ll portray next as he dips into his own experience and related expertise for Nora’s career. Dare we guess Washington, DC?