OFF THE CHART
Hall (Blackwater Sound; Buzz Cut; etc.) once again sweeps the sand, surf and swamps of Key Largo, in a hyperdramatic mystery featuring sensitive tough-guy Thorn and his live-in girlfriend, Alexandra Rafferty. Hall sums up the plot nicely at the beginning of the book: "Lunacy and violence. Pirates, pirates, pirates." Thorn's long-ago fling with a beautiful woman named Anne Joy comes back to haunt him years later when Anne's brother, Vic Joy, a modern-day pirate along the Gulf Coast, decides he needs to add Thorn's five-acre property to his ill-gotten business and real estate empire. Anne and Vic are the damaged products of a dirt-poor Kentucky upbringing overseen by a smalltime dope-dealing father and a deranged mother with an all-consuming passion for pirates. Thorn refuses to sell to Vic, triggering a complicated coercion scheme that eventually includes the kidnapping of the nine-year-old daughter of Thorn's best friend. The local body count builds until Thorn is in an all-out battle against the deranged Vic, with a complement of U.S. helicopters and a small army of cutthroat international pirates. Hall's crisp writing, plus the ticking-clock suspense of the child-in-peril subplot and amusing secondary characters like Alexandra's dotty dad make this an exhilarating addition to the series. (June)
Forecast:Hall is generally considered to be the stylist of the South Florida bunch and should be recommended to those fans of Hiassen, Leonard and Standiford (see the review of his latest novel, Havana Run, below) who haven't stumbled upon him yet.