An Anecdotal Death, by Kinley Roby. Five Star Publishing. 310 pages. Hardcover $25.95.
The tenth “Harry Brock Mystery” finds the game warden turned detective continuing to ply his trade in and near the Southwest Florida town of Avola. The place names Tequesta County and Avola allow Mr. Roby some imaginative space; many readers will quickly identify the setting’s originals as Collier County and Naples. More important than this identification is Mr. Roby’s worshipful perspective on the natural beauty and vulnerability of a patch of Florida wilderness that seems to be receding as the burgeoning town advances. Harry Brock works in both worlds, but he makes his home in a remote, simple dwelling on the edge of the Everglades.
The beautiful and wealthy Meredith Winters has summoned Harry to discover whether or not her missing husband, Amos Lansbury, is alive or dead. While the Coast Guard had rendered the verdict that Lansbury had died in a diving accident during a fishing expedition with several friends, no corpse has been discovered. Meredith has a feeling that Amos was murdered.
Touching base with his friends in the sheriff’s department, Harry worries about their reluctance to open an investigation. It soon becomes clear that political concerns are at work. When two more of Lansbury’s diving buddies turn up dead, it is hard to call the pattern a mere coincidence, especially since the common dominator seems to be that all worked in a very rough political campaign for a seat in the state senate. When a fourth campaign worker, not part of the diving activity, is found dead – the question becomes: who suffered so mightily from the outcome of the senate race that he (or she) has a serial score to settle.
Soon enough, Harry is nearly a victim, suggesting that the killer finds Harry too close to figuring things out.
As the investigation moves along, Harry’s personal life becomes just as much a center of interest as his professional one. He is meeting many divorced and widowed women in the course of the investigation, women connected with the victims in one way or another. Author Roby goes a bit overboard in describing each one, as well as Meredith and her secretary, as a surprisingly beautiful specimen of femininity. Or is that perception only Harry’s, a consequence of his own situation, appetites, and tendency to idealize?
Harry’s two failed marriages, and his impasse with his present love, have left him lonely and longing. Meredith throws herself at him, and there is plenty of flirtation in his sequence of investigatory interviews. Hey, whatever Harry’s got, I want some.
His emotional state is also colored by the growing fragility of his best friend and mentor, Tucker Labeau, whose residence on Bartram’s Hammock, a state nature preserve, is near Harry’s. The winding waterway named Puc Puggy Creek is for Harry something like Thoreau’s Walden Pond and its surrounding woods: a place to get back to basics. The profound friendship between the two men is based in part on their deep mutual respect for the natural world and a desire for self-reliance. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 9, 2015 Naples Florida Weekly and also the Punta Gord/Port Charlotte edition, click here: Florida Weeky – Anecdotal Death.