Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Books

Review: Randy Wayne White's new Doc Ford novel 'Deep Blue' a thriller

Is Doc Ford losing his touch?

Early in Deep Blue, Randy Wayne White's 23rd novel about the mild-mannered marine biologist/lethal secret agent, Ford heads across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatán, "where a resort the size of a cruise ship was anchored to a silver beach."

Ford is not there to chill in "the illusion of limitless excess." He's working, and his assignment is a man named David Abdel Cashmere, a failed actor from Chicago turned ISIS executioner. In videos Ford has watched in preparation, Cashmere wields a ruby-handled knife for severing heads.

Ford is an old hand at wet work, and with an ally working inside the resort his task of taking out the vacationing Cashmere should be simple.

It's not.

When Ford leaves Mexico, two people are dead, but neither of them is Cashmere, and the terrorist's fate is unclear.

Back at his home base at Dinkin's Bay Marina on Sanibel Island, Doc is sleep-deprived and feeling uncharacteristically rattled. It doesn't help when his nameless dog, an obsessive Chesapeake Bay retriever, almost drowns. What's really ominous is what the dog was trying to haul up from the bottom of the boat basin: an extremely high-tech drone with no identifying marks that seemed to be shooting video of the marina before Ford shot it down.

Ford soon recovers his edge. He has to. Even though his marina neighbors are caught up in their traditional celebration of the 26 Days of Christmas, orchestrated by Ford's brilliant stoner pal, Tomlinson (who is also a lot more than he seems), there is danger all around.

One of the people who died in Mexico was Winslow Shepherd, "Australia's version of Bill Ayers. ... a self-styled guerilla" involved in politically motivated bombings (one of them deadly) in his youth, later a university professor.

Winslow passed his revolutionary bent to his son, Julian, a tech genius: "By age sixteen, he had hacked the computer systems of the Pentagon, NASA, U.S. Naval Intelligence, and others."

Father and son disappeared after eight countries issued arrest warrants accusing them of selling intel to terrorist organizations. The two had been feuding, but with his father dead the son, now calling himself Julian Solo, seems to be focusing his terrifying talents on Ford — and maybe on those closest to him as well.

There are other things to worry about. Some are global: Ford's government handler shakes him up with scary talk about not knowing who's really running the show anymore. Others are local: Is Ford's neighbor Vargas Diemer, the suave Brazilian with the million-dollar yacht, a threat just because he has the hots for Ford's ex-girlfriend, fishing guide Hannah Smith, or is Diemer (who seems to be in the same line of work as Ford, and I'm not talking about collecting jellyfish specimens) more dangerous than that? And others are very personal, like the information — some of it so secret it's beyond classified — that Julian unearths about Ford and tries to use to blackmail him.

With the eccentric but always effective help of "boat mystic" Tomlinson, Ford tries to sort it all out. Along the way, he'll deploy some of the high-tech equipment his pals at CentCom in Tampa like to lend him, and Julian will bring out his own toys. (Personal submarine, anyone?) And that nameless dog will finally, after several books, get a handle, in memory of one of White's closest writer friends.

In Deep Blue, White turns a cool variation on the dramatic principle known as Chekhov's gun. The Russian playwright wrote, "One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off." In this case, you can't pepper the beginning of the book with references to a stupendous great white shark named Dolly wreaking havoc with dive tourism off the Southwest Florida coast without bringing her back to, in effect, go off.

And she will, when almost everyone least expects it.

Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

Comments

Two Florida authors among National Book Critics Circle awards finalists

The National Book Critics Circle has announced its award finalists for books published in 2017, and two Florida writers are on the list. Edwidge Danticat, the Haitian-born memoirist and novelist based in Miami, is a finalist in criticism for The Art ...
Published: 01/22/18
‘Year in Provence’ author Peter Mayle dies at 78

‘Year in Provence’ author Peter Mayle dies at 78

Peter Mayle, whose international bestseller A Year in Provence sent countless tourists to the vineyards and lavender fields of Southern France, has died.In an email, Mr. Mayle’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, reported that he died Thursday in a hospital...
Published: 01/18/18

Events: Bob Woodward to speak at Mahaffey

Book TalkAuthor and journalist Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer) will lead a workshop, "How to Read Like a Writer," at 2 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Tickets $5.Bob Woodward ...
Published: 01/18/18
Notable: Books from those countries

Notable: Books from those countries

NotableBooks from those countriesHere are books by immigrants from some of the countries recently disparaged by the president. Americanah (Anchor) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a brilliant novel set in this country and in the author’s native Nigeria,...
Published: 01/18/18
Review: Tim Dorsey’s ‘The Pope of Palm Beach’ reveals a sweeter side of Serge Storms

Review: Tim Dorsey’s ‘The Pope of Palm Beach’ reveals a sweeter side of Serge Storms

It’s an odd thing to say about a book in the Serge Storms series, but The Pope of Palm Beach is really kind of sweet.Serge might not want to hear that. He does, after all, kill people, in highly creative ways, when he’s not in manic pursuit of his pa...
Published: 01/18/18
‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

‘Fire and Fury’ burns up bestseller lists

When author Michael Wolff was interviewed on the Today show about his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Savannah Guthrie asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s attacks on it. Wolff responded, "Where do I send the box of ...
Published: 01/17/18

Events: Writers in Paradise features Banks, Lippman, more

Book TalkThe Writers in Paradise evening readings continue this week. All readings will take place in the Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Books will be available for purchase on site. All readings are free and o...
Published: 01/11/18
Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

Notable: Books on Trump, one year in

NotableOne year inWith the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, here are new books about him. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt) by Michael Wolff is the incendiary look at the administration that provoke...
Published: 01/11/18
Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

Andre Dubus III reads to ‘sink more deeply’ into the human condition

NightstandAndre Dubus IIIEckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference takes place this week, and one of the returning faculty members is Andre Dubus III. Dubus is the author of six books, including Bluesman, Townie and two novels turned films, The...
Published: 01/11/18
Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

Steph Post’s Florida noir ‘Walk in the Fire’ a sizzling sequel to ‘Lightwood’

In Steph Post’s new novel, Walk in the Fire, there’s a young aspiring criminal with a gift for astute observation. Asked to describe the tiny Central Florida town of Silas, where much of the book takes place, he says, "You drive through and it’s like...
Published: 01/11/18