Black Hammock, by Michael Wiley. Severn House. 192 pages. Hardcover $28.95.
With his newest and noirist thriller, Michael Wiley pretty much forsakes traditional detective story plotting and follows a protagonist on his personal vendetta. The protagonist, Oren, has gathered up a small group of his well-armed friends with the goal of murdering his mother Kay and her husband Walter. He wants it to be a slow, painful death. He is sure that the couple, who have a home on isolated Black Hammock Island in northeastern Florida near the Georgia border, had killed his father, Amon Jakobson, eighteen years ago, effectively abandoning Oren to an uncertain fate when he was only eight.
A local Sheriff’s Office detective, Daniel Turner (for whom Mr. Wiley’s mystery series takes its name), has had a continuing interest in the unsolved disappearance of Amon that is stirred up by the arrival of Oren and his vigilante crew. Because Turner is identified with Jacksonville in Wiley’s earlier Turner novels, Black Hammock is no doubt to be imagined as part of the Jacksonville/Duval County united government. How Oren executes his plan and how his actions affect others are the novel’s principle centers of interest. Bringing to life a rural, off the grid culture is another. Revealing the hard life of Amon is a third.
Mr. Wiley handles his exposition by alternating two narrators. One is Oren, telling his own story (and his father’s) in his own way, at once humorous and threatening. The other is Lexi, the eighteen-year-old bookish daughter of Kay and Walter, who is looking for her chance to get away from the tawdry life at Black Hammock. Lexi’s concern about the future of her mentally disabled younger brother, Cristofer, has probably kept her from leaving the island.
In having Lexi tell her side of the story that begins with Oren’s arrival (he keeps his identity a secret through most of the story), Mr. Wiley allows her to stand in for the reader. Her questions and suspicions about what this strange, intelligent, erratic fellow is doing by invading her home directs the reader’s interest, sympathy, and judgement.
For each narrator, and for the other important characters, Mr. Wiley has developed a distinctive voice. In fact, the book’s impact in large part comes from its frequently over-the-top dialogue. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 8, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Black Hammock.