Last updated on March 15th, 2017Reading Eyewitness Blues by Rhode Island native Tim Baker is like sitting in a comfortable chair on your deck during a sunny summer day looking out across the open space before you. Not too complicated, not too stressful and perhaps the type of relatively lighthearted thriller one seeks to escape for the day. Yet, a caveat. By the story’s end, the reader will discover its underlying moral tale and the lessons learned by its main character.
Martin, an affable well-intentioned sort-of guy living in Rhode Island, has not made the best of life decisions recently and now finds himself working for a local gangster boss, Don Gammino, at his restaurant. It’s his evening gig; the daytime is spent as an attendant at a parking garage. Money is tight, work is stressful, and Martin’s living situation is not any better. His roommate / friend’s girlfriend is eager to see Martin’s departure from the premises and when that succeeds, Martin finds himself “living” in the basement of the restaurant, unbeknown to the mob boss and his overeager right-hand strong man Lorenzo. And that is where Martin’s real trouble begins.
After overhearing a conversation between Gammino and local power-players as they gather in the restaurant to discuss “things” in the middle of the night, and then finding out about a subsequent crime, Martin puts the chain of events together and realizes he has information regarding the crime. Martin realizes that he knows who committed the crime and why. But for Martin, knowing (or almost 100% certain) becomes “witnessing,” and he concocts a scheme to try and “disappear” from his current life — he’ll report the crime as an eyewitness and ask for witness protection.
Martin is warned by his friend and confidant at the restaurant that his plan is risky, at best, but Martin, desperate and perhaps not particularly savvy, decides it is his only option. He visits the police station and reports that he witnessed the crime and points directly to Gammino. But Martin does not know that Gammino has eyes and ears everywhere; the tables turn and Martin is the endangered one.
With Martin now on-the-run, Eyewitness Blues gathers steam. Martin escapes to Florida and the story unfolds neatly with some unexpected twists and bends that keep the pages turning. Baker’s style is easy-going and fun, while the characters are actually more complex than their dialogue initially reveals. And although the reader may have a relatively fast-paced action story to digest, certain scenes and characters are darker than the Florida backdrop implies. The interplay and relationships of these characters — Martin, Mercedes, Ike, and Darlene — as they engage with each other and the trouble they must overcome is a smartly enduring quality of the story and the story writing.
Like that sunny day on the back deck overlooking the open space, the reader can enjoy this thriller for its moments of escape. At the end of the story, though, there is a larger life lesson Baker offers the reader, spoken by Martin: “Now I know that having a better life isn’t about where you are…but who you are.”