Cuddy is more moral than religious, a man who believes strongly in
representing his clients, keeping his promises, and ferreting out the
truth. He stays sexually faithful to the memory of his dead wife,
waiting until he finds someone he thinks can replace Beth in his life.
He even goes to the cemetery where she’s buried (overlooking the harbor
in their old South Boston neighborhood) and has graveside
"conversations" with her as a way of dealing with his loss. As mystery
author Nancy Pickard once put it: "John Francis Cuddy is the man every
woman wishes she’d met her senior year of college."
Cuddy has a wise-cracking sense of humor, but he can also be credibly
violent, having learned in the Army the martial art of Jukado as well as
how to handle many firearms.
To stay in shape, Cuddy jogs along the
Charles River (where he trained for the Boston Marathon) and works out
at a Nautilus club in the "yuppie" Victorian neighborhood of Back Bay,
where he now rents a condo from a doctor doing a residency in Chicago.
Cuddy walks through the Public Garden and the Boston Common to his
office on Tremont Street, the windows showing a view of the golden dome
of the Massachusetts State House, the white spire of the Park Street
Church, and the human kaleidoscope of the central Boston subway station.
Cuddy soon finds that, in the same way the traditional cowboy brought
law to a lawless land, he as an investigator can bring justice to a
law-bound society, focussing on the kinds of cases the formal "system"
just doesn’t handle very well.
Many of the books in the series focus on
"fall between the cracks" situations (the search for the missing son of
a Mayflower-family judge in BLUNT DARTS when the jurist doesn’t seem to
want his son found, the investigation into the death of the
fashion-model-daughter of a Mafia chieftain in SHALLOW GRAVES, the
murder of a Holocaust survivor/store owner in ACT OF GOD). Other novels
raise controversial legal issues (the Nicole-Brown-Simpson-like tragedy
of a battered wife in SWAN DIVE, the right to keep a reporter’s sources
confidential in YESTERDAY’S NEWS, the Dr. Kevorkian question of assisted
suicide in RIGHT TO DIE).
The more recent novels have dealt with cases
pulled from the headlines (the extent to which people should be
investigated in INVASION OF PRIVACY, the killings of male divorce
attorneys by irate, opponent/client husbands in THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER,
the investigation of a JonBenet Ramsey-like murder in South Florida).
The series has a fairly small, rotating cast of supporting characters.
Nancy Meagher (pronounced Mah-harr) is an assistant district attorney
and Cuddy’s potential love interest. Robert Murphy serves as the only
African-American lieutenant in the Boston Police Homicide Unit, advanced
on the promotion list when a bigoted Irish city councillor assumed
"surname" stood for "race." Sergeant Detective [Boston’s ranking system]
Bonnie Cross serves as the only female in that unit. Primo Zuppone is a
mob enforcer and reluctant friend who loves New Age piano music, and Mo
Katzen works as a Studs-Terkel-like newspaper reporter.