BONE KEY: A John Deal Novel

Les Standiford, Author . Putnam $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-14874-3

Among mystery buffs, John D. MacDonald may be the poet laureate of South Florida, but now Standiford—whose work has been praised by Elmore Leonard and Stephen King, among others—bids fair to be MacDonald's heir apparent. (Travis McGee fans will note John Deal's resemblance to MacDonald's "salvage consultant," and Standiford, like MacDonald, excels at depicting violence.) The novel takes its cue from John Hersey's hymn to Key West ("Many of the citizens are well acquainted with mischief, but at a cost"). The story begins in 1931 with a storm passing through the Florida straits; there's a devastating explosion aboard a freighter, The Magdalena, and then—oblivion. Many years later, John Deal, who inherited the Dealco Construction firm from his late father, is visiting Key West to discuss a building project. He steps in to help a black youth, Dequarius Noyes, from being harassed by a deputy. Soon afterward, Noyes turns up in Deal's hotel room dead. In the kid's hand is the label from a bottle of rare wine, vintage 1929, worth thousands of dollars. There's more, much more, including buried treasure, an old girlfriend who reappears out of nowhere and, of course, murder. The labyrinthine plot, involving a case of rare wine worth $100,000, will delight oenophiles. Thriller buffs in general and readers of South Florida mysteries in particular should find this one well up to Standiford's standard. (Apr. 15)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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