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Science is sexy in scintillating Hannah Smith thriller

Seduced, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 352 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Pythons, orange trees of ancient stock, infidelity, madness, and greed. Is that all there is? Well, no. There is Mr. White’s gloriously complicated, totally unglamorous, and fiercely independent Hannah Smith.  seducedjacket

As in much of RWW’s previous work, Florida’s history and natural assets are much in evidence, as is the author’s interest in saving what’s left of the indigenous wildlife and ecosystem. In many of his novels, Mr. White makes science interesting, and “Seduced” is no exception. The extended, plausibly introduced discussions on how orange trees propagate, along with the reasons for finding clones of the original 16th century stock brought by Spanish adventurers, are powerfully addictive.

DNA issues, patents on seed development processes, and the money to be made from disease-resistant strains of citrus take Hannah, her allies, and her adversaries to dangerous cypress swamps, islands that like much of Florida are now denuded of the indigenous animal population by the intrusions of ravenous giant pythons and other exotic predators. Hey, if you’re going to find the ur-orange trees you’re going to have to risk death by python.

True to form in the Randy Wayne White world, the predator most to be feared is the homo sapien.

White author photo by Wendy Webb

White author photo by Wendy Webb

From her cabin cruiser, Hannah sees some disturbance at her mom’s cracker house. Turns out stroke survivor Loretta’s been keeping up her affair with the former lieutenant governor of Florida, a wealthy old philanderer named Harney Chatham. Chatham seems to have died in the love-making, and now it seems wise to move the body in order to disguise the place of death.

This frantic exercise in saving already wounded reputations soon puts Hannah in the company of Reggie (the deceased’s loyal driver) and other Chatham employees.  Among them is Kermit Bigalow, the manager of the Chatham citrus groves – a sizeable enterprise threatened by plant disease.

Bigalow, in a failing marriage and with a young daughter, is quickly enamored with Hannah – and doesn’t hide his attraction. Hannah, off-guard, is first responsive to his advances, but then cools things off and sets limits. She and Bigalow share the interest in saving the threatened orange groves; Bigalow is particularly interested in the financial benefit of controlling breakthroughs in the cure. However, as widow Lonnie Chatham makes clear, she would own those discoveries made by him while in her employ.

Lonnie, a former cheerleader, has long tolerated Harney’s indiscretions (including his affair with Loretta). She is busy protecting her turf now that he’s passed away. She’s locked Kermit out of his job, and she’s worried about land Harney has willed to Hannah. Moreover, there is evidence to keep hidden that threatens her own rights to inheritance. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 19, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Seduced

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