Review: Foursome by Jeremiah Healy

This is the 8th book in the John Cuddy private investigator series and this case takes him from his usual haunts of Boston up north into the serene beauty of the Maine North Woods. As with the other books in the series the plot is tight the writing is vivid and the passion of the main character shines brightly.

The book was nominated for the 1994 Best PI Novel. 

Book Details

Title: Foursome
Author: Jeremiah Healy
Pages: 344
Published Date: 1993
Publisher: Pocket Books
Series Details: 8th book in the John Francis Cuddy series

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Publisher's Synopsis

Cuddy travels to Maine to investigate a gruesome lakeside murder

Steve always forgets to buy groceries on the way to the lake house. Every time he and his wife make a pilgrimage to Maine, his first task is to drive into town and pick up essentials. Today he leaves his wife at home with their two friends and returns from the store to find a crossbow on the lawn and arrows embedded in the chests of the three people he loves most. During a twenty-minute shopping trip, he has become the chief suspect in a triple murder.

The case against him is airtight--fingerprints on the weapon, blood on his shoes--so Steve's lawyer hires Boston PI John Francis Cuddy to crack it. Steve's lakeside neighbors had no love for his yuppie pals, but did they hate the city slickers enough to frame him for murder? Cuddy learns quickly that in Maine, even the killers are awfully polite.

From the Dustjacket

Marseille Pond was a peaceful Maine lake known mainly for loons, ospreys, and the gentle lap of canoe paddles – until the night someone used Steven Shea’s crossbow in a savage slaughter that left his wife, Sandy, and his best friends Hale and Vivian Vandemeer, dead. For the high-living Boston couples who called themselves The Foursome, the good times were over. The Shea’s getaway camp was a bloodbath. And Steven Shea was the sole suspect. His lawyer, an old school buddy of John Cuddy’s girlfriend, hired Cuddy to do what seemed impossible – find a hole in the overwhelming evidence against his client.

Marseilles Pond is a soothing escape for the disgruntled Cuddy, who’s suffering from the abrasive effects of urban blight. Aided by ex-M.P. and current sheriff Patsy Willis, Cuddy gets a taste of North Woods tang and some vital information from in intriguing cast of characters: Ma Judson, keen dog-lover and flinty Yankee whose shotgun isn’t for show; Dag Gates, environmental activist and amputee who has lost two limbs to the cause; Ramona and Ralph Paine, the congenial couple who run the store and inn; and Owen Briss, a local carpenter whose work is as fine as his temper is foul. They all had regarded The Foursome as obnoxious intruders; but why any of them would kill three and frame the fourth was a piece of the puzzle Cuddy couldn’t find.

The Boston side of Cuddy’s inquiry leads to Shea’s colleagues at his high-tech defense firm: his boss, on the edge of winning a huge contract; a rival salesman whose ambitions include Shea’s job; and a sleek lady lawyer who knows too many of the suspect’s secrets. The Vandemeer’s surviving family – Hale’s brother, a used-car dealer with a shaky business that needed regular filial cash infusions, and Hale’s deadbeat son, into drugs and a beautiful inner-city girlfriend – begin to point to the Vandemeers as the intended victims. But the shattering news that Hale and Shea’s wife, Sandy, were having an affair brings the case back to Cuddy’s client with the force of a closing prison door.

 After a brutal encounter with a Boston girl gang known as Las Hermanas, Cuddy finds safe haven in Maine – and unearths a lead buried in the tranquil beauty of Marseilles Pond that will pit him against an impassioned killer, waiting with a few ingenious surprises…


In Foursome, the 8th book in the superb John Cuddy series, the focus of the story is divided between Boston (the usual location for the series) and Maine.

This is one of the strongest entries in the series with the case set up as a classic whodunit while the Maine portion providing a pleasing backdrop that reads very much like a travelogue.

The case that Cuddy’s working is a horrifying multiple murder which has taken place in the otherwise serene Marseilles Pond in the North Woods of Maine. The suspect being held for the crime is Steven Shea, husband of one of the victims and best friends with the other two.

Cuddy is asked to investigate by Shea’s lawyer who is a former classmate of Nancy, Cuddy’s girlfriend.

Working on a growing belief that Shea is innocent of the murders, Cuddy must pick his way through a selection of possible suspects who are presented to him both in Maine as well as Boston. His line of inquiry also runs him afoul of a street gang in Boston which, although only peripherally involved in the case, represents a significant threat to his life.

This is a nicely constructed mystery that further cements Cuddy as an insightful detective who manages to make things happen from the thinnest of leads. The story moves at a steady pace with an engaging tone that keeps you involved from start to finish.

Other Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Boston's mean streets and Maine's peaceful waters provide the richly contrasting background for a sometimes chilling, always compelling story: Healy's best to date...Read Full Review

Publisher's Weekly

A top-notch mystery with a drop-dead beginning, Healy's eighth John Cuddy novel, following the Shamus-nominated Shallow Graves , is loaded with red herrings and brightened by small moments of warmth...Read Full Review

GoodReads Reviews

"Super book! Good plot, well written and interesting characters. A Boston private detective, John Cuddy, is hired to go to Maine to try to discover who could have murdered three people from two couples who used to enjoy each other's company. At the beginning of his involvement, Cuddy is sent to meet Steven Shea who has been arrested as the suspected killer, question him and try to figure out who else might have murdered the three..."

At the time of writing there are 4 reviews posted to the GoodReads website as well as 82 ratings for an average of 3.8/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the GoodReads website

Amazon Reviews

"PI John Cuddy investigates murder that took place on a New England hide-away lake sparsely dotted with old-timer residences and rich city folks' vacation houses. The foursome consists of two married couples that were unusually close. The story takes us into John Updike territory, and mystery writer Jeremiah Healy deserves serious comparison with that celebrated author."

At the time of writing there are 178 reviews posted to the Amazon website for an average of 4.5/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the Amazon website

Other Shamus Best PI Novel nominees - 1994

The Devil Knows You're Dead


Lawrence Block

*** winner ***

Wolf In the Shadows


Marcia Muller



James Sallis

The Lies That Bind


Judith Van Gieson