Tag Archives: Hannah Smith

White’s Doc Ford has been called an “enduring hero.” Long may he endure

Review by Phil Jason (accepted for publication in Florida Weekly, but freelancers like me are on forced hiatus)

Salt River, by Randy Wayne White. Putman. 368 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Several centers of interest intertwine to provide an engaging addition to the Doc Ford series. This 26th contribution to the series, coming two years after “Caribbean Rim,” shows that Mr. White has not lost his touch and is still among the elite thriller writers in the nation. 

Readers new to Randy Wayne White (hereafter RWW) need to know just a few things about his Doc Ford character. Doc is a marine biologist with an independent practice. He works, off and on, for a beyond top secret government agency. He is a skilled and avid fisherman with a love of boats and great skills of navigation and employment of shipboard gadgetry. He has an on and off romance with a female fishing guide, the beautiful and independent Hannah Smith (title character of four RWW novels). He has a middle-aged hippy-type friend named Tomlinson.  He loves his home territory of Florida’s Sanibel Island. He’s good with guns.

So what’s happening in “Salt River?” Doc has recently found himself in the possession of a horde of rare Spanish coins that he has wrestled away from disreputable treasure hunter. Shady government employees, one of them is IRS agent Leo Alomar and the other a Nassau customs agent Rayvon Darwin, “a mobster in uniform,” are looking for the leverage that will make Doc want to “share” his treasure. Doc’s skill set, we must assume, is up to the task of avoiding any traps set by these unscrupulous men.

Tomlinson has discovered that his youthful adventure “donating” to a for-profit sperm bank has created a growing family of young adults with Tomlinson DNA. These offspring have found each other and are looking for more siblings. They are planning an event at which daddy Tomlinson will get to know them. It’s not clear just what the motive of each happens to be. Tomlinson is particularly concerned about the motives of Deville, one of the young men.

Randy Wayne White Photo by Brian Tietz

One of Tomlinson’s seed, a beautiful young woman named Delia, makes a play for Doc’s attention and more. She knows how close Doc and Tomlinson have been for many years, and she has a dose of emotional instability that is dangerous to herself and to Doc. She can tease, she can attract sympathy, she is vulnerable, and she is also ashamed of her propensities.

Doc better be careful, especially as his relationship with Hannah Smith is not going as he would like. He fathered Hannah’s child and is working hard, and effectively, to prove himself a good father to their young son, who lives with Hannah. But Hannah is leary of Doc’s behavior. Too often he must fabricate stories to cover his disappearances when called to duty by that clandestine agency. Hannah knows when he’s fibbing. Delia’s presence doesn’t help matters.

RWW’s books do a fine job of mixing the familiar with the less familiar. He makes the Dinken’s Bay Marina setting in SW Florida an attractive place to live and work. The lifestyle is casual, the friendships pleasurable. Readers can watch Doc in his laboratory, housed at the marina, as he works on his scientific projects. His friend Mack runs the marina with a sure hand, keeping things dependably relaxing.

Mr. White paints this little world of fishermen and boaters with indelible hues. Sometimes danger shows up at or near the marina, but most often the danger is somewhere else and for one reason or another Doc is driven to contend with it.

RWW’s fans expect to be exposed to interesting locals in the SW Florida area and also the Caribbean islands. His secret life takes him to many places, and in this novel establishing a faux identity as Morris Berg is part of the tradecraft that keeps the plot humming.

RWW draws his familiar and new characters with confidence. He makes their individual voices and speech patterns distinctive. After a while, the alert reader will know who’s talking without the names being mentioned.

Doc remains as multi-dimensional as ever. A true friend, a man of courage and varied skills. A man with the self-knowledge that leads to an appropriate humility. His future with Hannah remains cloudy. Tomlinson’s zaniness remains outlandish and a constant text for Doc’s patience.

After the two-year wait, it’s good to have Doc back and in good form.

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Latest Hannah Smith outing is a tone poem in darkness and determination

Haunted, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 352 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

This novel, the third in the Hannah Smith series, contains some of Mr. White’s best writing ever. He has deepened Hannah’s character, addressing her demons, passions, intelligence, and moral fiber in ways both compelling and profound. He has painted the area around Florida’s Caloosahatchee River with artistic brilliance, often using the darkest pigments on his palette. He has collected a gallery of grotesques – human and near-human – that will make your blood curdle. He has once again dangled a bit of local history, this time Civil War era, to complicate while enhancing our understanding of the present action, layering its impact and meaning. jacket_large_Haunted

This time out, we meet Hannah assisting the aunt of her good friend, Deputy Sheriff Birdy Tupplemeyer. The aunt, Bunnie Tupplemeyer, is a manipulative Palm Beach widow with a problem. She is part of an investment group that had purchased just over six hundred acres of land on the north side of the Caloosahatche River between Arcadia and Labelle. Now she wants to get out of her part of the deal. What she has discovered about the history of the property is unsettling. So is its intended use as a condo development. Her lawyer believes that the seller had broken a disclosure law and that Bunnie can use that infraction to recoup her investment.

Hannah’s job is to explore the property, which includes an historic home named Cadence Place, and strengthen Bunnie’s case. A history buff whose family has long roots in the region, expert fishing guide and part-time detective Hannah is excited about this unexpected assignment – it’s not her usual case. What she discovers, however, is a nightmare of twisted minds and destructive obsession.

Has this place been poisoned by terrible things that have happened there?

WhiteAuthorPhotobyWendyWebb

Briefly, Hannah and Birdy make the decaying old mansion their base of operations. Before long, they are frightened out of their wits by strange sounds of all kinds. They are assaulted, or at least feel threatened, by scorpions, snakes, and various other critters. Though an experienced outdoorswoman, Hannah has difficulties with the dark spookiness of the place. Is the ghost of the beautiful Irene Cadence still restlessly haunting her home? Is that the wind . . . or Irene’s scream?

Then there are the devilish humans. First among these is Dr. Theo Ivanoff, a youngish man purporting to be an assistant professor with expertise in Civil War history. The first impression, that he’s “a tad strange,” turns into something much worse when the true madness and cruelty of this individual is revealed. Ivanoff is soon a threat, assisted by a seeming half-wit named Carmelo and a strange breed of chimpanzees – a couple with something very close to human intelligence, enormous strength and cunning, and ferocious loyalty to their master. There is also a witchy woman named Lucia and a hidden population of frightening, if not altogether dangerous, characters. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 13, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 14 Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Naples editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Haunted.

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Deception and corruption reign in White’s latest SW Florida thriller

Deceived, by Randy Wayne White. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 352 pages. $26.95 hardcover.

This second installment in Mr. White’s Hannah Smith series, following the powerhouse debut of “Gone,” is totally satisfying. A reader with high expectations is easily disappointed; this reader had a delightful time getting to know Hannah better and being frightened, along with her, by mysterious and cruel events that test her courage and determination.  DECEIVEDbyRandyWayneWhite

There is a little corner of coastal Southwest Florida, not far from Sanibel Island, that has a troubled history and a threatened present. It’s officially known as Sulfur Wells. Hannah tells her curious fishing clients that the row of tiny tin-roofed cottages is known as Munchkinville . One of these men, a member of the important Chatham family, collects antique fishing equipment; the other, good-looking Joel “Rance” Ransler, at first hides his identity as special prosecutor for the county. What are these men really fishing for, underdeveloped real estate?

More than a few strange things are happening. Hannah’s mother, Loretta, is concerned that her good friend Rosannah “Pinky” Helms can’t be located. Soon, Hannah goes out to PInky’s dilapidated home and – though threatened by ferocious dogs and a crazed, axe-wielding man – finds that Pinky has been murdered.

Is there any connection between this murder and the unsolved murder of Pinky’s late husband many years ago?

Randy Wayne White

Randy Wayne White

Some of Loretta’s valuable possessions, which had be put in the custody of the Helms family, have disappeared. Is there a connection between their disappearance and the pamphlets describing an organization called “Fisherfolk of South Florida” which touts a “Preserve Our Heritage” motto? It seems as if the elderly locals are being scammed by a scheme that invites donations of their family heirlooms to fund a local heritage museum. The scammers push the idea that the donors can get tax benefits from the government that is usually busy regulating their livelihoods – like fishing –out of existence.

And what’s that monstrous building looming alongside of Loretta’s modest home and grounds? How did bad neighbor and shady shrink Dr. Candor, psychiatric clinic and rehab center entrepreneur, have a bunch of zoning codes waived for that edifice? And where are the remains of the historic Indian shell mounds that were demolished to level the land? . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the August 28, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the August 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, and the September 5 Palm Beach Garden / Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – White’s “Deceived”

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