Friday, June 22, 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
Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Grief can unhinge us, disconnect us from our daily lives, make us do things we’ve never done. Grief made Tessa Fontaine run away and join the circus.To be more exact, the sideshow: World of Wonders, the last traditional traveling sideshow in the coun...
Published: 06/21/18
5 fiction writers who've turned their attention to Donald Trump

5 fiction writers who've turned their attention to Donald Trump

He might not have intended it, but Donald Trump has been good for book publishing.
Published: 06/15/18
What’s Neal Thompson, author of ‘Kickflip Boys,’ reading?

What’s Neal Thompson, author of ‘Kickflip Boys,’ reading?

Neal ThompsonFor Father’s Day, we checked in with Neal Thompson from his Seattle office. In his new book, Kickflip Boys, Thompson weaves together a story on raising his two independent, passionate sons while giving us an honest look at the underbelly...
Published: 06/15/18
What is Jen Waite, author of the memoir

What is Jen Waite, author of the memoir "A Beautiful, Terrible Thing," reading?

Jen Waite It is June. Romance and weddings are in the air, and with that comes the paperback release of A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite, 33. The book, based on Waite’s heartbreaking wedding story, fi...
Updated one month ago
Review: Jake Tapper’s ‘Hellfire Club’ a fictional thriller sharpened with real 1950s politics

Review: Jake Tapper’s ‘Hellfire Club’ a fictional thriller sharpened with real 1950s politics

Washington, D.C., is a city in crisis, the operations of the federal government all but paralyzed by the conspiracy theories of a powerful politician who behaves as if the bounds of protocol and decency don’t apply to him. As he distracts the nation,...
Updated one month ago
What’s Helen Rappaport reading?

What’s Helen Rappaport reading?

Helen RappaportWhile delving into archives and researching her new book about the murder of the Russian imperial family 100 years ago, The Race to Save the Romanovs, Rappaport celebrated the digital age. "I am able to go back so far in time and look ...
Updated one month ago
Review: Lauren Groff’s ‘Florida’ explores a state beyond the boundaries

Review: Lauren Groff’s ‘Florida’ explores a state beyond the boundaries

In "Flower Hunters," one of the stories in Lauren Groff’s stunning new book Florida, a character gets a reader’s crush on 18th century explorer William Bartram, an early chronicler of the state’s flora and fauna: "She’s most d...
Updated one month ago
Notable: Books for the beach

Notable: Books for the beach

NotableBooks for the beachSuit up: It’s time for a few new books built for vacation reading.By Invitation Only (William Morrow) by Dorothea Benton Frank is the latest serving of Frank’s trademark warm humor and engaging characters, set around two wed...
Updated one month ago
Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

NightstandJudy BlundellSince it’s Memorial Day weekend, we decided to touch base with Judy Blundell, whose new book is High Season. The novel’s protagonist is Ruthie Beamish, director of a small museum who, to make ends meet, rents out her seaside ho...
Updated one month ago

Events: Pulitzer winner Jack Davis to discuss ‘The Gulf’ at Oxford Exchange

Book TalkUniversity of Florida historian Jack E. Davis (The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea) will discuss and sign his Pulitzer Prize-winning book at 1 p.m. May 27 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Admission $5, applicable towar...
Updated one month ago