cover image Mean High Tide

Mean High Tide

James W. Hall. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (371pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30798-7

After a two-book hiatus, Thorn--the quixotic fly-tying Florida Keys protagonist of Under Cover of Daylight and Tropical Freeze --is back with a bang in Hall's fifth thriller. Darcy Richards, the love of Thorn's life and his assistant at best-buddy Sugarman's ragtag security agency, dies in a mysterious diving accident after enigmatically asking Thorn if he's ever heard of red tilapia, the exotic food fish. When he discovers that Darcy was murdered via a paralyzing judo handhold known only to covertly trained assassins, Thorn vows revenge. Following a bullet-dodging introduction to Sylvie, the sociopathic daughter of murderous Harden Winchester, Thorn stumbles across a twisted family tree. Hall ricochets this oddball cast helter-skelter through the sleazy mazes of south Florida's tourist-clotted off-ramps, across the alligator-infested Everglades to posh Naples and beyond. As usual, Hall's Uzi-punctuated prose is compelling. Despite the uncharacteristically bad, comic-opera melodrama of the climactic scene, Hall manages in this quirky, thought-provoking nail-biter to convey with ominous clarity the ecological warning: ``The future is now.'' (Apr.)