Hour of the Manatee

E. C. Ayeres, Author, E. C. Ayres, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-09918-3
A weary and reclusive news photographer turned PI must delve into a quarter-century-old death for answers to a recent murder in this atmospheric mystery set on Florida's Gulf Coast. A dotty old woman is shot to death in a motel just as she is asking Tony Lowell to investigate the 1966 drowning of playboy heir Henry Hartley III. All he knows is that she was institutionalized after witnessing the death, which was ruled accidental. A visit from two FBI agents and hints of political scandal goad Lowell to stay on the case, which has been assigned to conservative detective sergeant Lena Bedrosian of the Manatee City Police Department. Lowell returns to the Hartley home in Palm Coast Harbor, an enclave of the wealthy where Lowell himself grew up as son of the local police chief. His probing leads to another murder, and he and Bedrosian must flee or become the next victims. Ayres's protagonist, a burnt-out survivor of the '60s and '70s, of Vietnam and Watergate, is a properly alienated PI. His foil (but not his romantic interest), the defensive and determined Bedrosian, may be a little overdone, but nevertheless the two work together to a satisfying conclusion to this tale, which won the 1992 St. Martin's/Private Eye Writers of America Best First PI Novel contest. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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