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Phil’s Picks 2017

The following is a list of outstanding books reviewed in these (Florida Weekly) pages during the past year. In a way, all the books reviewed are outstanding, as they were selected from a much longer list of books crying for attention and in many cases deserving such attention. However, I can only review one each week in my column.  The full reviews can be found by using the search box on the Naples edition of the Florida Weekly web site: Floridaweekly.com. So, here are an even dozen titles, nine fiction and three non-fiction, for your reading and gifting pleasure.

To encounter reviews that I’ve prepared for other publications, go to philjason.wordpress.com.

The Magdalen Girls, by V. S. Alexander. Kensington. 304 pages. Trade paperback $15.00. 

Set near Dublin in the 1960s, this unusual novel carefully constructs a powerful vision of religiosity run amok. Its focus is two teenage girls who are assigned to the Magdalen Laundries at The Sisters of the Holy Redemption Convent. Their parents have assigned their care to the convent, believing that its discipline and Spartan living conditions will bring the young women to faith, responsibility, and eventually to productive, upright lives. That’s the positive spin on the parents’ motives, which readers will find far less noble.

In fact, the institution is a prison and slave labor operation, all in the name of Jesus and his Father.

An Honorable War, by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 392 pages. Hardcover $26.95. Trade paperback $16.95.

How does Mr. Macomber keep doing this? The thirteenth installment of his splendid Honor Series, like the earlier titles in the series, once again transforms a pile of historical fact into a colorful, well-imagined, and highly suspenseful entertainment. Captain Peter Wake, assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, is no desk-jockey, but a man of action – in this case leading the action plan that he designed to satisfy the ambitious and often outlandish Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The author’s subtitle sets the historical scene: “The Spanish-American War Begins.”

This episode, cast as another segment of the memoirs of Peter Wake, launches a three-part trilogy within the burgeoning series.

Kenmore Square: A Novel by Carol June Stover. Champlain Avenue Books. 264 pages. Trade paperback, $13.99.  

Set in Boston during the 1950s and early 1960s, this curious coming-of-age tale involves unusual characters and several life-altering secrets.

Iris Apple’s world is rocked at the age of 10, when her mother is murdered. Iris suspects her crude and cruel father might very well be the murderer, but she has no way of acting on her suspicions.

Nick Apple, son of a well-known Boston bookie, runs the Kenmore Square rooming house where the family lives among the down and out boarders. One boarder is very special: Madame Charlemagne, a once-popular performer who has become a recluse. The aging cabaret singer and young Iris assist and console one another in various ways.

The Red Hunter, by Lisa Unger. Touchstone. 368 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

This delicately constructed thriller explores the distance and proximity between two women whose paths cross in strikingly unusual ways. The younger of the two, Zoey Drake, has lived through a lengthy and ongoing recovery from a devastating childhood trauma. Her parents were murdered before eyes in their rural home outside of New York City. Zoey, who barely survived, has lived with a rage she must control to function effectively. Rigorous martial arts training has been her coping mechanism and her security against being victimized in her adulthood as she was in her childhood.

She has been reared and put through college by the man she calls Uncle Paul, and she assists him as he struggles with poor health. She supports herself through cat-sitting jobs and by helping her martial arts mentor teach self-defense to young girls. Nightmares haunt her, but she has gained a healthy self-confidence.

An Ice Age Mystery: Unearthing the Secrets of the Old Vero Site, by Rody Johnson. University Press of Florida. 224 pages.  Hardcover $24.95. 

For 100 years, the human and other remains of Vero, Florida have engaged the skills and imagination of professional and amateur archaeologists. Just what was the region like during the Ice Age? What grew there? What were the geological features? Did animals thrive? Did humans leave their marks — and their bones – somewhere in the layers of sediment washed by intruding waters? Why are these questions important?

The history of archaeological investigations of “the Old Vero site” is characterized by sporadic periods of accelerated interest and action separated by longer periods of general neglect. Rody Johnson tells the story in a highly accessible style, even making the forays into science understandable and engaging.

The Late Show, by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 416 pages. Hardcover $28.00.

Several years ago, I fell in love with Randy Wayne White’s new Hannah Smith series. The Hannah Smith character provided a fresh focus for Mr. White’s considerable skills, while the Doc Ford series continued to satisfy his devoted following. Now we have Mr. Connelly, masterful creator of both the Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller (Lincoln Lawyer) series, launching a new venture centered on a distinctive and totally engaging female character. Detective Renée Ballard is a winner. I swooned over Hannah, and now I’ve fallen for Renée as well.

Mr. Connelly mastery of the police procedural, honed throughout the Bosch series, is put to good use here. Ballard is a credible mixture of impulse and orderliness, and the latter trait usually allows her to follow the steps – regulations and protocols – that underpin effective police work.

The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn, by Robert P. Watson. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. Hardcover $28.00.

Lynn University Professor Robert P. Watson makes reading history a totally engaging experience. He does so by choosing unusual and challenging topics, setting them into contexts rich in detail, and presenting them in a prose style that is clear, vivid, and uncluttered by academic jargon. His latest book is a piece of fine storytelling, accessible to the general reader. Prof. Watson makes historical events shine as if they were today’s news. Readers will care about what happened on HMS Jersey, the major British prison ship during the American Revolution.

As he must, the author attaches his relatively narrow topic to a few larger concentric circles: prison ships in general; overcrowded British prisons in the colonies and insufficient buildings to repurpose; and the overall Revolutionary War. The book’s spatial focus is New York, particularly Brooklyn waterways, and New England.

Cold Water Canoe Club, by Jeffery Hess. Down & Out Books. 292 pages. Trade paperback $16.95.

I can’t think of another short story collection that I’ve read in recent years that has given me such a jolt of vicarious experience and insight. Original, fraught with every kind of pain, clearsighted and despairing, Mr. Hess’s book takes us to external and internal places that most of us have been able to avoid. And that avoidance has distanced us from people, whole swaths of society, who we have unwittingly depended on to keep us safe – and even prosperous.

Given today’s concerns about American’s conflicts and rivalries with Putin’s Russia, a group of 15 stories focused on the lives of Navy seamen during the Cold War has an added dimension of relevance. In addition, the stories are amazingly well-written, filled with an abundance of explosive imagery, and presented through unmistakably authentic first or third person voices. Well, perhaps there is a bit of literary overlay on and around these voices.

Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band, by John Capouya. University Press of Florida. 374 pages. Hardcover $24.95. 

For a scholarly enterprise, this book is notable for its high energy and conversational tone. One can feel the author’s obvious excitement over the opportunity to celebrate the dazzling contributions of those in the art and business of soul music. It’s a sizeable group of talented and inventive characters who make longer or shorter appearances in this lively slice of Florida’s cultural history. Interestingly, though soul is thought of as a sturdy branch in the tree of Afro-American music, Mr. Capouya makes it clear that white performers and other white music industry professionals played major roles in the regional and national success of this musical genre.

Mr. Capouya’s chaptering system links the recording artists and other music professionals with key ciites, large and small, in the history of the genres development and significant presence. His titles add up to a map of the world we are exploring, but without an actual map. Clearly, the state has been saturated with native born or adopted Floridians who build a musical tradition.

Come Home, by Patricia Gussin. Oceanview Publishing. 368 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

Remember 2011 – the year of the Arab Spring? The turmoil in the Middle East provides a backdrop for Ms. Gussin’s fast-paced thriller. Ahmed Masud, middle son in a wealthy Egyptian family, is called back to Cairo to help prepare for his family’s future after the Mubarak regime collapses. Their wealth derives being favored by Mubarak’s son, who handed them an Egyptian cotton empire. Also, Ahmed’s parents wish to see his five-year-old son, Alex. Succumbing to their pressure, and unsettled by medical malpractice lawsuits, Ahmed steals his son away to Cairo, rashly jeopardizing his marriage and the American dream lifestyle he and his wife, also a plastic surgeon, have shared.

Readers will be puzzled by Ahmed’s sudden sense of family duty, as was his wife, Dr. Nicole Nelson, who is outraged and crushed by his behavior. She wants her son back! Nicole rallies the support of her twin sister Natalie and their accomplished, successful brothers.

The Shark Club, by Ann Kidd Taylor. Viking. 288 pages. Hardcover $26.00. 

Maeve Donnelly is the thirty-year-old protagonist of this elegantly written first novel. She is part of the shark club triumvirate, the other two being her long-time boyfriend Daniel and Daniel’s daughter, six-year-old Hazel. This informal mutual interest group was put together to help Hazel find stability in a young life that has been – and still is –filled with uncertainty.

Maeve and Daniel have decided to see if their long-severed relationship, once seen as strong and vibrant, can be restored. Hazel is the unplanned child of a woman with whom Daniel had a quick affair. That misstep cost him Maeve’s trust. Hazel’s mother died. Now the question is whether these three individuals – the only members of the shark club – can form normative family bonds. Maeve and Hazel are bonding in beautifully, but there is still something keeping some distance between Daniel and Maeve.

When They Come for You, by James W. Hall. Thomas & Mercer 288 pages. Trade Paperback $15.95.

Add James W. Hall to the list of premier mystery/thriller authors who have jumped tracks from a classic series featuring a male protagonist to a new series featuring a female character. Having raved over Michael Connelly’s Renée Ballard and Randy Wayne White’s Hannah Smith, I am now gushing over Mr. Hall’s Harper McDaniel.

We meet Harper on a pleasant February day in her Coconut Grove home. Her husband Ross, an investigative reporter, is shaving while holding their infant son Leo. Harper must snap a picture of them. That’s part of her nature as a professional photographer who is also the daughter of Deena Roberts, a photographer superstar and a suicide. A few blocks away, Spider Combs performs his electronic surveillance of the home, taking pictures and filming the movements of the gorgeous Harper. He knows a lot about this family, a family he has been contracted to destroy. Only Harper survives the fire.

That’s all, folks! See complete review as it appears in the the December 21, 2017 Naples Florida Weekly , the December 27 Fort Myers edition, and the December 28 Bonita Springs and Charlotte County editions. Link is to first page of article. Continue through the following pages.  Florida Weekly – Phil’s Picks 2017

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Classic Naples-based series says adieu with class

Death in the Dark, by Kinley Roby. Privately published. 277 pages. Kindle e-book $2.99.

This is Mr. Roby’s 11th and final Harry Brock Mystery. Though he had planned for it to be the last, an unexpected dilemma must have sullied the closure experience a bit. Accidentally deleting the almost completed text file and its backup from his computer (a cautionary tale, writer friends), he had to laboriously reconstruct his narrative. In the interim, the publisher of the first ten series titles decided to abandon the detective fiction genre, leaving the author with little choice but to self-publish it via Amazon’s Digital Services division.  

The good news is that it is here, but so far only as an e-book. A confessed fan of the series, I found it once again meeting the high bar of the others in most ways. Readers may trip over the typos of one kind or another that haven’t yet been corrected, but there are still so many things to enjoy.

Roby sets the series in a disguised version of Naples and environs. Those familiar with the area will have fun penetrating the place names (such as “Vienna Village”) the author invents for familiar locations, as well his presentation of the cultural environment.


Harry is still running his PI business, patrolling the patch of government land called Bartram’s Hammock on the edge of the Everglades. He inhabits a small house in exchange for warden duties, and he gets mixed up in cases that also involve local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. And, as in past adventures, beautiful women are omnipresent.

He is still spending time with his older friend and neighbor Tucker. These aging outdoorsmen are still doing a bit of farming. It’s a delight that Kinley Roby allows us to see them tending to pets with whom they carry on conversations. Harry and Tucker are an intelligent, humorous odd couple. Tucker’s niece Delia, temporarily living with her uncle, is one of several attractive women whom Harry admires and with whom a relationship almost blooms.

Plot? An enormous international trade in stolen art run by cutthroat thieves is leaving a trail of bodies and threatens to leave more if Harry and the law enforcement officials can’t put a stop to the menace. Some of those involved in this illicit industry are on the edge of cooperating with the authorities to save their own lives and perhaps some of their filthy lucre. The ins and outs of the complex schemes that all sides are hatching create the intellectual stimulation that Kinley Roby’s novels always deliver.

The dialogue between Harry and his friends in uniform captures the nature of their relationships as well as the ways professionals develop and refine plans designed to take down the criminals. Mr. Roby’s characters are well-delineated by their patterns of speech and other tools of this writer’s trade. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Death in the Dark

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Diamonds and dames rough and smooth anchor PI’s kidnapping case

Facets, by Lawrence De Maria. St. Austin’s Press. 201 pages (equivalent). Kindle E-book $2.99.

Jake Scarne Thriller #6 is a steamroller of action and calculation. It begins with pieces of background, the first of which is set in 1990 at Catholic school for troublesome girls in mountainous Chamonix, France. A beautiful, self-assured blonde named Maura Dallas is characterized by her quick wit and aversion to discipline or conformity. For two years, she has roomed with her best friend, black-haired Argentinian Alana Loeb, another beneficiary of the school’s dependence on wealthy parents without whom it wouldn’t survive. Maverick daughters of such parents must be tolerated. The wealthy Dallassio family, deep into criminal activity, can make sure their daughter Maura graduates. FACETS(September2015)forphil

A scene in 1995 takes us to Boston where Maura is found flourishing on the Harvard Law Review and bedding down with Lucas Brandeford, one of the junior law professors and a rising star. Maura is a shrewd seducer and manipulator. Her brains are enough to get her through, but she hedges her bets with her body. As she is throughout her life, Maura is protected by Victor Anastasia, a senior enforcer and family bodyguard in the Dallassio criminal empire. When Maura dumps Brandeford, he sounds threatening. Anastasia rigs his arrest for cocaine possession, and the enraged suitor is forced to resign.

The main story, set primarily in New York, unfolds in 2015. It involves Maura’s rebellious and somewhat estranged daughter, Alana, a twenty year old Barnard student taking some of her classes at Columbia University. She is having an affair with an adjunct teacher, Luke Willet. Agreeing to take Alana to the airport, Willet drugs and abducts her. He has a very well thought out plan for a huge ransom, to be paid out in a mix of cut and uncut diamonds. Mr. De Maria describes the ingenious scheme in meticulous detail, hooking his readers for the rest of the journey.

De Maria

De Maria

Jake Scarne enters the story when he is hired by Maura Dallas , still a beauty in her mid-to-late forties. She is accompanied by Victor Anastasia, who knows Scarne’s agency partner, Noah Sealth. (Where does De Maria get these names?) Maura hires Jake’s team to find her daughter. She insists that there be no police involvement, and she explains how she’s received convincing evidence from the kidnapper that Alana is alive. Jake’s follow-up questions reveal what a pro he is and how much Anastasia and others have tried to do on their own. Maura explains that she has raised Alana as a single mother.

Jake is concerned that the ransom demand has not yet been made. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in November 18, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 19 Bonita Springs and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Facets

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“The Murderer’s Daughter,” by Jonathan Kellerman

  • Ballantine. 384 pages. Hardcover  $28.00

This taut new thriller features a memorable, series-worthy heroine.

When it comes to psychological thrillers, Jonathan Kellerman has been at the top of the heap for three decades. His Alex Delaware series is an institution. In this truly frightening stand-alone effort (though Delaware is briefly mentioned), Kellerman introduces a character who could conceivably head a new series.

Gorgeous Dr. Grace Blades, a brainy 34-year-old, has a private practice as a psychologist who aids victims of trauma. However, she is a victim of childhood trauma with the capacity to wreak havoc on others. Her sense of justice is very personal.

We first meet Grace at the age of 5, the neglected child of an unmarried pair of slackers, Ardis and Dodie, who hold menial restaurant jobs and barely exist in a cruddy trailer park. Grace learns to take care of herself and teaches herself how to read. She’s a prodigy in a cultural wasteland.  43626.jpg (200×226)

After this brief introduction, the author takes us almost 30 years ahead, providing several chapters on the successful Dr. Blades. They reveal her skilled and caring professionalism, her ethical business practices, and her quiet confidence.

We also discover the risk-taker part of Grace that vies with her control-freak dimension. Self-control and self-stimulation alternate like a perilous seesaw trying to reach a point of balance.

Structurally, the narration involves two alternating timelines. One focuses on a short period of present time in the life of Grace the psychotherapist and thrill-seeker. The other takes us through several stages of her development, usually marked by a change in the institution or foster home where she resides.

Eventually, of course, the timelines meet. Along the way, Kellerman provides a detailed exploration of how children in such circumstances are likely to be treated and what the consequences might be. More importantly, he builds our understanding of how Grace in her mid-30s is a product of the nurturing — or lack of it — she received during her development. She is also a product of her own willpower and self-creation.

Part of Grace’s preparation for life is watching her parents wage bloody war upon each other. Her mother, Dodie, stabs her tormenter, Ardis, her father, who dies. Then Dodie plunges the knife into herself, first instructing Grace to remember what she sees.

She will.

Grown-up Grace enjoys exercising power, particularly sexual power, over men. She lives a secret nightlife of trysts in which she is the controlling temptress. On the occasion that drives the main plot, Grace rehearses some lies, dresses to kill (pardon me), and goes to a bar expecting to entice a partner for the evening. A man calling himself Roger takes the bait. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in Washington Independent Review of Books, click here: The Murderer’s Daughter | Washington Independent Review of Books

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“Vixen: A Nameless Detective Novel,” by Bill Pronzini

  • Forge. 224 pages. $24.99.

Imagine “La Belle Dame sans Merci” reborn in San Francisco noir.

Bill Pronzini must have a closetful of mystery-writer awards. His “Nameless Detective” series has been acclaimed by just about every contemporary or newcomer in the field. Individual titles have also won prestigious awards. Vixen, the 44th in the series (and an expansion of his 2012 limited-edition novella, Femme), justifies all the accolades he has received since launching his career in 1971.

Pronzini has a quiet, plain, and yet infectious style. His plot is complex but easy enough to follow without leafing backward. He holds his readers with his art of penetrating character development and redolent atmospherics. Pronzini makes an easy read seem easy to write, but it can’t be when his novel is so totally satisfying and hauntingly noir.

“Nameless” (hereafter known as Bill in this review, as he is in the novel) is engaged by the stunningly beautiful, erotically charged Cory Beckett — a control freak who knows how to get what she wants. And what she wants from Bill and his detective agency is for them to find her missing younger brother, Ken. Arrested for having stolen an expensive necklace from his wealthy employer’s wife, a terrified Ken has left town rather than face trial.

Jake Runyon, who works for Bill’s agency, tracks him down. Ken is nearly out of control with fear of being tried and found guilty, but fear of his sister’s displeasure is even greater. Femme fatale Cory lies about everything to achieve her ends, but uses the promise or reality of super sex to blind her male victims (or simply make truthfulness irrelevant to them).

It’s not immediately clear if she wants to protect her brother from the theft charges or sacrifice him to spare herself from prosecution. Ken isn’t a druggie, but Cory claims he’s an addict to explain his unstable, erratic behavior, which actually results from his crippling dependence on her.

Cory lines up lovers and potential husbands only to satisfy her greed for wealth and power. As the mistress of yachtsman and political power player Andrew Vorhees, she might wait for his separation from his wife to turn into divorce — or she might make him available as a husband some other way. And she can use the spell she’s cast over packing-materials manufacturer Frank Chaleen, already “in bed” with her effort to frame Ken for the theft, and take further and faster steps to riches.

To say too much about the complications of the plot is to give too much away. Clearly, Cory is not a client for long, and the efforts of Bill and Jake turn more and more toward blocking her schemes and saving her potential victims, especially the beleaguered Ken. . . .

To read the entire review, click here for Washington Independent Review of Books posting: Vixen: A Nameless Detective Novel | Washington Independent Review of Books

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Serge becomes a free-lance legal “fixer” in Dorsey’s latest laugh-fest

Shark Skin Suite, by Tim Dorsey. William Morrow. 336 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

You will laugh so hard that you’ll fall off the plot lines. But don’t worry. Mr. Dorsey will help you get back on them, off them, and on them again. What we have here is an episodic, picaresque novel, belatedly in the tradition of “Don Quixote de la Mancha.” Serge Storms, the hero of record in Tim Dorsey’s long-running series, is a knight errant transported to contemporary Florida, a place with plenty of windmills at which to tilt.  Serge doesn’t have to imagine adversaries; they are only too real. Serge is an easy-to-love homicidal maniac. His buddy Coleman is his Sancho Panza. SharkSkinSuiteHCc

Okay, I’ll drop the World Lit 101 and get back to business.

Who are the bad guys of our time? Why, of course the financial institutions that gave us the mortgage foreclosure nightmare and the lawyers who struggled, sometimes unscrupulously, to defend them. Enter Brook Campanella, former flame to Serge and now a young lawyer damsel in distress. Yes, there are good guy lawyers, too, and Serge is cutting every corner so he can to pass as one.

After seeing Brook in action, a good-sized Florida firm hires her and quickly gives her a case that would seem to be beyond her. Coupled with one of the firm’s equally inexperienced staffers, Brook sets out to argue a class action case against a bank gone wild but that has powerful, corrupt legal representation. There are hints of collusion between Brook’s firm and the bank’s – is her assignment a set-up? Is she supposed to fail so that both law firms somehow win?

Guess what? She’s so darn good that she’s winning the case! That wasn’t the plan. Perhaps it would be best if she not continue. Maybe she can be discredited, or frightened, or worse. Her co-council disappears. Who’s next?



Where is Serge? He seems to be on a bender of feverish imagination and unchained impulse, often accompanied by drugged out Coleman and with a shifting retinue of other strange characters. We follow Serge as he scrambles around the state looking for the locales of his favorite set-in-Florida films (even though most were made in Hollywood studies). We observe his attempts to turn his self-induced legal education into a scheme for bringing him easy money. And we enjoy his relationship with a new buddy, an out of work journalist, as part of Mr. Dorsey’s hilarious exposé of another segment of our time’s bad guys: the greedy media outfits. . . .

To read this review in its entirely, as it appears in the February 11, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 12 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tim Dorsey

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One to Go by Mike Pace

Oceanview Publishing. 365 pages. $26.95.

Posted on Washington Independent Review of Books, January 5, 2015

Are dreams or demons driving the protagonist of this thriller?

Deux ex machina is not only a literary device, but also a theme in this unusual genre-crossing novel. Billed as a paranormal thriller, One to Go raises suspense by manipulating readers into wondering if the supernatural occurrences and personages perceived by the central character are hallucinations, hoaxes, or true manifestations of the spirit world — both godly and ungodly.Tom Booker’s high-pressure life as an underling lawyer in a world-class DC law firm pits the demands of the firm against his responsibilities as a father. The pressure has already ruined his marriage, but he is trying to hold onto his relationship with his 7-year-old daughter. Maintaining two households and paying alimony have compromised Tom’s lifestyle, and he often has to make excuses when his promises to young Janie are sacrificed to the demands of his superiors at the firm. To deal with these pressures, Tom has been relying on liquor way too much.As the story begins, Tom is supposed to bring his daughter and her friends to a field trip. Delayed by running into the head of the law firm on his way to the office garage, he is fearful about how angry his ex-wife, Gayle, will be if he once again doesn’t come through.Traffic conspires against him, too, and Tom is surprised to see the girls in his sister-in-law’s minivan. Wondering about a change in plan, Tom is forced into an accident. He awakens after a blackout to see the minivan teetering on the edge of the road and about to fall into the river. Janie’s face is pressed against the window. . .  .

To read the entire, juicy review, click here:  One to Go | Washington Independent Review of Books

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New White thriller uncovers Florida’s past and its coveted, buried riches

Bone Deep, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 384 pages. $26.95.

Readers are lucky that in the imaginary world in which Mr. White’s Doc Ford lives, trouble will seek Doc out. Sometimes it’s as simple and predictable as having his old buddy, Tomlinson, ask a favor for a friend. Hey, can you help my friend get back some antiquarian carvings that help define his family’s Native American heritage?

Sure, why not?

And before long we are in the word of phosphate mining, possible water pollution, a Central Florida elephant preserve, a lunatic biker improbably named Quirk who has a metal tool kit in place of a hand, and an underworld of nutty grifters hooked on fossils and lost (or hidden) treasures from centuries gone by. Bone_Deeplarge

Some are seeking art, artifacts, and history; others are only seeking the money that rarities can bring. Some try to feed their greed within the law; others just don’t want to get caught. And still others will murder. All these seekers are gamblers, addicted to risk and, in some cases, vulnerable to the whims of their creditors.

What is quite astounding in this tension-packed novel is how much scientific and cultural information the author transmits without getting bogged down in stiff, pedantic exposition.

Natural history is the broad background of knowledge, particularly the natural history of the Florida peninsula and the layers of its geography and geology. Readers get to tour fossil and bone fields, explore the shifting balance  of water and terra firma over the eons, and the shifting fortunes of  indigenous tribes and colonial entrepreneurs who lived, died and left their secrets behind to be the fools’ gold of the future.

“Bone Deep” has a large cast of compelling and repulsive characters, their destinies interwoven in the compact present of a sharply drawn plot. These include the Tomlinson friend, Duncan “Dunk” Fallsdown, the Crow from Montana on the trail of artifacts stolen from tribal lands. Part shaman and part sham, Dunk is at once irritating and ingratiating.  Like Tomlinson, he is a test of Doc Ford’s patience – only as honest as he needs to be.


Then there is Leland Albright, present day head of a declining phosphate-based business empire who offers Doc a job analyzing the water quality of three lakes in the family’s fossil-filled quarries. Mr. White sets his portrait of tall, gangly, withdrawn Leland into a generational history that becomes a prototype for the rise and fall of family fortunes. Mammoth Ridge Mines was started and built up by Leland’s grandfather and mismanaged by the next generation. On Leland’s watch it will either recover or be forever lost.  And things aren’t going well. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the March 12, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 13 Bonita Springs, Naples, and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Bone Deep

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 For Immediate Use

Contact: Sharon Potts,  sharon@sharonpotts.com or 786-423-9294

SleuthFest Celebrates 20 Years

Starting Friday, February 28 through Sunday, March 2, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America will celebrate twenty years of SleuthFest, a conference designed for authors at all stages of their careers. This year’s conference will be held at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort, Bonnet Creek, in Orlando, Florida. Three days of powerful information will kick off with a presentation by Guest of Honor Hank Phillippi Ryan. Attendees can start their learning process on Thursday, Feb. 27, withThird Degree Thursday (extra fee), which is devoted to intensive skill-building, taking writers from concept to publication. The conference proper starts on Friday, Feb. 28, with agent and editor appointments (must be signed up in advance!) and roundtables designed to enhance presentations on the state of the industry and career planning. Throughout the event, attendees will hear from and mingle with Special Guests Ace Atkins and Laura Lippman. Registration includes some meals, a cocktail party, and a complimentary buffet and party at House of Blues featuring Heather Graham’s band, The Slushpile. While walk-ins are welcome as space permits, registration is encouraged. Special conference rate for rooms is available. Go to http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm 

Our line up…

Laura Lippman-Since the publication of her first novel in 1997, Laura Lippman has won virtually every major award given to U.S. crime writings, including the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, Agatha Award, Nero Wolfe Award, Shamus Award, and the Quill Award. She is a New York Times bestseller and the author of twenty books, including her most recent release After I’m Gone.  http://lauralippman.net/

Ace Atkins-Ace Atkins is the New York Times Bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the forthcoming The Broken Places and Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland both out from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in May 2013. A former journalist who cut his teeth as a crime reporter in the newsroom of The Tampa Tribune, he published his first novel, Crossroad Blues, at 27 and became a full-time novelist at 30. Last year, he was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the bestselling adventures of Boston’s iconic private eye, Spenser. http://www.aceatkins.com/

Hank Phillippi Ryan-For her work as an investigative reporter, Hank Phillippi Ryan has won 30 Emmys and twelve Edward R. Murrow awards. A best-selling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won two Agatha, the Anthony and the Macavity awards for her crime fiction. Her newest thriller, The Wrong Girl, was published by Forge in September 2013. http://www.hankphillippiryan.com/


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