Tag Archives: hurricane

Storms of the heart bring violence, catharsis

Mine, by Courtney Cole. Gallery Books. 304 pages. Original Trade Paperback $16.00.

This scorching-hot novel of infidelity, its causes, and its consequences is structured as a two-narrator duet in which harmony is unlikely. Accomplished and confident Tessa is taken by surprise when she discovers that there is a rival for her husband’s favor. At forty, and with three children and a booming career, she felt she and Ethan were on a steady path.

Twenty-six-year-old Lindsey, gorgeous but insecure about everything except her good looks, has set her sights on Ethan, whom she met online. She offers him literally everything, using her neediness as a weapon. 

Ms. Cole has clearly distinguished her two combatants. She has pitched their voices perfectly to capture the many contrasts in their personalities.

As a coastal Florida storm intensifies into a hurricane, blocking Ethan’s return home from a business trip. A glance at Ethan’s iPad turns Tessa’s world upside down. Ethan has been having a sex-tinged flirtation with a beautiful younger woman whose seductive photos are a challenge and a threat to his wife.

Courtney Cole photo by Christine Arnold

Alternating chapters reveal the two women’s thoughts, emotions, and words. Readers get to know them, and a clever plot device forces them to get to know one another.

Throughout the novel, the hurricane is effectively used as a metaphor for the darkness and danger of the women’s emotional situation.

There are interesting ironies that affect the relationship between Tessa and Lindsey. Not the least of these is that Lindsey, a nursing student, saves Colt, Tessa and Ethan’s oldest child, when he has what could have been a terminal bout with his serious disease. Not only must Tessa thank Lindsey for saving the young man’s life, but she begins to see Lindsey as a person with more dimensions than husband-snatcher.

Seeing the two women in the context of their families provides for engaging contrasts. Tessa’s accomplished brood of two sons and a daughter (her other children are Connor and Ava) reflects Tessa’s care and expectations. Ethan has been in the picture, but Tessa is the driving force. Reader’s learn little about the older generation – Tessa or Ethan’s parents.

On the other hand, there is a well-turned portrait of Lindsey’s mother, who has become the caretaker for Lindsey’s eight-year-old son, Logan, since Lindsey’s situation does not leave her with the resources or confidence to be raising him. Lindsey’s mother, a practical person, perceives and announces the many flaws that she finds with Lindsey’s decisions and expectations. She scolds her regularly.

There are several large-scale flareups between Tessa and Lindsey . . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the June 19, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mine

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Hurricane threatens missing twin in evocative noir thriller

“Separation Anxiety,” by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press.  320 pages. Hardcover $26.99, trade paperback $16.99.

Many writers of high repute have applauded Michael Lister’s giant talent and unique vision. And yet, he perseveres in relative obscurity, never embraced by a major publishing house that could help him reach the wide audience he deserves. His John Jordan Mystery series is a treasure of contemporary literature. His books outside of this landmark series are equally suspenseful, provocative, and unsettling.  Mr. Lister’s work always has a spiritual dimension, and in “Separation Anxiety” the spiritual realm becomes dominant. perf5.500x8.500.indd

The plot of “Separation Anxiety” is populated by twins: biological and spiritual. The central character, in this story that involves many major characters, is Taylor Sean. Taylor, thirty-two, is a prominent artist who lives with her teenage daughter Shelby in a Lithonia Lodge, an eery old house in the Florida Panhandle town of Tupelo. This region is Mr. Lister’s home territory, and he knows it inside out.

Taylor is a conjoined twin, her identical sister – Trevor – having died in separation surgery (they had been joined at the lower abdomen) so that Taylor might live. Not only does she carry the internal and external scars of this surgery, she has transformed the outer scars into living art.

Michael Lister

Michael Lister

Taylor, always tortured by survivor guilt, has regained a tenuous stability in the long, chaotic aftermath of that loss as well of the loss of Shelby’s twin sister, Savannah. Taylor’s emotional repair is largely due to the loving care of Marc, her novelist soulmate and thus a kind of psychic twin.

Now, as a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico aims right at Tupelo, young Shelby disappears – a remarkable recurrence of Savannah’s disappearance some eight years back. The search for Shelby races against the timetable of the approaching storm and, perhaps, the intentions of an abductor. It’s possible, however, that Shelby has simply left on her own or run away with her boyfriend, Julian. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 6, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 7 Naples edition, click here Florida Weekly – Lister 1 and here  Florida Weekly – Lister 2

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Novelist Ken Pelham debuts with a perfect storm of menace

Brigands Key, by Ken Pelham. Five Star. 374 pages. $25.95.

Some books have plots sprung from contagion and epidemics. Others feature natural disaster plots, like hurricanes. Still other books involve tales of buried or sunken treasure, or a mysterious disappearance. Many authors build plots around intriguing misfits, loser types who win in the end. Brigands Key knots together all of these plot strands and more. It begins with an unusual mystery. Archeologist Carson Grant, a man with a tarnished reputation, thinks he’s onto something big.

On an unfunded research dive in the Gulf of Mexico, over twenty miles from the coast and a long way down, Grant finds a cave out of which gushes a freshwater spring. Nearby, he finds a marvelously preserved corpse. It looks like a recent death. However, the autopsy reveals a strange assortment of facts that don’t fit together, making the time of death impossible to determine.

This same Gulf area has also attracted a fisherman turned fortune hunter, Roscoe Nobles, and his teenage assistant, computer geek Charley Fawcett. Roscoe is one of Brigands Key’s real characters. He’s a schemer and a dreamer. And suddenly he is gone, without a trace.

Okay, we’ve got a dead guy (whose finder is under suspicion) and a missing guy. Soon, a mysterious illness breaks out. Maybe a virus, but maybe not.  Some kind of poison? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta sends an investigator, a Japanese American named Kyoko whose career is in jeopardy. Before long, she is in jeopardy.

Hurricane Celeste is bearing down on Brigands Key. Now the head of the local police and the town mayor are at odds about how to handle the twin situations, and soon the Florida governor and the federal government are involved. Official orders of evacuation and quarantine bump heads. Should the folks on Brigands Key be saved from the hurricane at the risk of exposing others to the spreading, undiagnosed illness?

Ken Pelham

This novel progresses like one of those suspenseful juggling acts in which the juggler gets three balls into rotation and then adds the third, the fourth, and the fifth while the audience waits for the next increment of complication or the ultimate collapse. Maybe the juggler will add bowling pins, axes, or flaming torches to the routine. These acts can be breathtaking, but they are over in a matter of minutes. Brigands Key is similarly breathtaking, but reading it takes a lot longer. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the November 21, 2012 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly, as well as the November 22 Naples and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions and the December 13 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Pelham 1pdf and here: Florida Weekly – Pelham 2pdf

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Alex Kava’s “Damaged” has the goods

“Damaged,” by Alex Kava. Doubleday. 272 pages. $24.95

How did Nebraskan Alex Kava get to Florida? “I was looking for a writing retreat when a friend invited me to her hometown of Pensacola. I love the beaches and the area, so I bought a house on Blackwater Bay. That was in 2004. Six months later Hurricane Ivan hit. Nine months after that – Dennis. I spent the first several years cleaning up.” So, at some point, you put a hurricane in a novel, right?

Here are the ingredients: a category 5 hurricane approaches Pensacola; the Coast Guard finds a cooler filled with body parts floating off Pensacola Beach; a mysterious string of deaths plagues the medical facility at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Who do you call? Maggie O’Dell.

In this, Alex Kava’s eighth Maggie O’Dell novel, the intrepid FBI profiler-agent has her hands full. Assigned to team up with a Homeland Security official in dealing with the body parts issue, Maggie is thrown into this complex of interwoven concerns. Where did the cooler come from? How has it ended up near Pensacola? What is causing the fatalities among servicemen who have had limbs replaced? How will the approaching hurricane affect finding the answers to these questions?

The medical issue is not directly Maggie’s concern. A Navy captain, the head medical doctor on the base, runs a surgical transplant program. He has invited an Army doctor, an infectious disease specialist, to help address the unknown disease. However, Alex Kava will bring this mystery and the mystery of the stray body parts into an unexpected relationship. The ticking time bomb of the approaching hurricane adds intensity and anxiety, and Kava’s portrait of how different townspeople respond to the approaching threat is handled with impressive skill.

In this novel, Maggie O’Dell is one of two heroic female figures. The other is Liz Bailey, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer whose exploits begin the novel and who just about takes it over at other times. For all of her courage, Maggie cannot imagine herself doing the kind of thing that Liz does; for example, being deployed from a hovering helicopter to secure people in danger – or in this case to secure a floating container. With the hurricane on its way, Liz and people with her training might have plenty of work to do.

The read this review in its entirety as it appears in the August 11-17, 2010 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 12-18 Naples Florida Weekly and Charlotte Florida Weekly click here: Florida Weekly – Alex Kava

Bonus Material: the following Q & A did not get into print because of space limitations:

Where did you get the idea of the epidemic-threatening infection?

 I love the character of Col. Benjamin Platt (who debuted in EXPOSED) and I wanted to bring him into the story. Pensacola has several military ties so it made sense to find a connection. In the meantime I had read an article about staff infections in soldiers who had lost limbs. The article mentioned a new bone paste that was being used to preempt these infections because they could add antibiotics directly to the paste which was added directly to the wound. As strange as it sounds it was almost like kismet, because I had already started asking questions about possible contamination of donor body parts including bone.

 For “Damaged,” which came first: the hurricane situation, the body parts issue, or the infectious disease?

 The hurricane came first. Ever since I experienced Ivan (2004) and Dennis (2005) I’ve been chomping at the bit to send Maggie O’Dell into the path of a hurricane.

 Will we see Liz Bailey again? She’s a winner.

 I hope so. She certainly won me over, and I ended up giving her a more prominent role than she initially had.

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BOOK BEAT 51 – Jonathon King

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   August 1-7, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Jonathon King has become, in a very short time, one of the premier crime novelists among the exceptionally talented group writing in and about Florida. His terrain includes the densely populated counties of South Florida and the sparsely populated, mysterious Everglades. King has just brought out his fifth “Max Freeman” novel, after a brief escape from Max with the recent and masterful “Eye of Vengeance.” Max’s return in “Acts of Nature” brings the protagonist fully into the ferocity of Florida’s most powerful natural menace – the hurricane. Or is that menace human nature? The title lets us take our pick.

Unlike most crime fiction, “Acts of Nature” does not attach the hero to a particular investigation. But as in some of the best of the genre, trouble finds him anyway.

The plot involves a triangulation of destinies, and the narrative technique finds King alternating three story lines until they inevitably intersect and explode.

The first story line involves a shared vacation between private investigator Max Freeman and his girlfriend, Sherry Richards, who is a detective with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Desiring an uninterrupted escape, Sherry leaves no contact information as the two decide to nurture a relationship that has engaged King’s readers through several books. After some time at Max’s Everglades cabin, the two seek out a remote fishing camp to continue their cautious embrace of the area’s allure. They lose contact with the fact that a tropical storm has turned into a serious hurricane speedily bearing down on the Glades.

The second story has to do with a pair of security operatives for an oil company. These men, Harmon and Shields, are hired guns performing the kind of deniable dirty tricks that corporate success requires in the unstable world of international politics. When we first meet them, they are liberating a computerized analysis device from a pump room in Venezuela.

Harmon is an especially credible and memorable character, whose skills, background, personal traits, and home life King sketches with vividness and efficiency. 

The third track concerns three low-lifes from the Ten Thousand Islands area. The leader is an ex-con, Buck, who runs salvage operations (burglaries) as mentor to two teenagers who do the heavy lifting. It’s a pretty slick operation, looting empty homes in gated communities across South Florida and fencing the goods. When the hurricane strikes, Buck is convinced that there will be easy pickings at the damaged fishing retreats in the Everglades. He assumes that the owners will first attend to their primary homes before checking on the condition of these remote properties.

King nails the lingo of the teenagers and builds a compelling portrait of their milieu, their relationship to one another, and their interaction with the thirtyish Buck. Theirs is a sad story, but it is related with zest and with the kind of telling details that pull the reader in.

Through short, fast-paced chapters, King draws in the net that holds his three stories until they become one. The complications include a serious injury to Sherry Richards, an injury that becomes life-threatening due to the pair’s isolation and the wreckage created by the hurricane. As King fashions their responses to this predicament, he artfully deepens the characterizations of both Sherry and Max while ratcheting up the suspense.

“Acts of Nature,” published by Dutton, is a not only a sharp-edged thriller, but an album of American types and of America’s moral malaise.

King’s new readers will want to go back to the beginning of the Max Freeman series – the award-winning “The Blue Edge of Midnight” – and follow the ongoing Freeman saga. King’s committed followers will enjoy this new Freeman adventure, but are likely to hope that the walk-on part assigned to Palm Beach lawyer Billy Manchester, Max’s main source of employment and frequent benefactor, is enlarged in the next outing. And all followers of Florida crime fiction will chuckle at the affectionate passing reference to Jim Born, who really is a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as a stalwart member of the Florida crime fiction tribe.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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