cover image Tropical Freeze

Tropical Freeze

James W. Hall. W. W. Norton & Company, $18.95 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02694-8

Fisherman Thorn, first seen in the well-received Under Cover of Daylight , is getting his life together slowly, rebuilding his house in the Florida Keys and supporting himself by making fishing lures. When his boyhood friend, ex-FBI agent Gaeton Richards, disappears, his sister Darcy enlists Thorn in a campaign to nail Gaeton's boss, Benny Cousins, the not-quite-respectable head of a multinational rent-a-cop business who is determined to become a force in local ``conch'' affairs. But little is what it seems: Thorn and Darcy find themselves up against not only Benny but also violent, Florida cracker Ozzie, who lusts for Darcy and works for Papa John, local ``character'' and scam-master--and Benny's nasty racket may be protected by the Feds. Fast, cinematic scene-shifting, garish gallows humor (Tropical Freeze is the name on Papa John's ice cream truck--with a corpse in its freezer) and a violent, roller-coaster plot lead to a bleak, cynical ending. The main flavor is rue: the people in the Keys who came ``to the outer fringes of America to nourish their rugged individualism'' are losing it to modern civilization. 35,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; Mysterious Book Club selection. (Oct.)