It's always a pleasure to read a straightforward crime novel that doesn't have so many characters that it's impossible to remember who's who or chapters that flip back and forth in time so often that I give up trying to figure out what year it is. While I might take a bit of an issue with the description that calls it a "gripping thriller with an explosive ending" - especially since the ending didn't come as a big surprise to me - I really, really enjoyed this book. So much so, in fact, that I'm happy to know it's the first book in a new crime series that takes place in south Florida. For sure I'll be in line when the next one comes out.
Actually, I've never been to Florida, even though my husband and I have so many relatives and friends there that we could stay for free for at least a couple of months (all of whom, BTW, would break our kneecaps if we didn't cheer for the Florida State University Seminoles). So even if we haven't been there person, the ins and outs of Rookery Bay, a vast nature preserve dotted with brackish creeks seem somehow familiar and make the perfect setting for this book. And from the get-go I was intrigued by the main character, detective Tom Lange, who's joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He's hoping to do the best job he can under difficult circumstances (everybody resents a rookie, after all). He's also still trying to cope with the trauma of his childhood years; the only family he has left is an older brother Nick, who lives in the area as well.
Tom's first case comes with the discovery of an unidentified woman's body in a mangrove; the only clue is her butterfly tattoo. His boss, Lauren Blythe, is a seasoned detective who likes to be in control and is willing to cut a newbie only so much slack - even when it's likely that he's on to something. Stir in a medical examiner who, shall we say, won't win any awards for his sparkling personality, and Tom realizes early on that his opinion probably won't count for much. As if that case weren't bothersome enough, he not only must contend with a neighbor's abusive boyfriend, hints of drug dealing and prostitution but also his brother, who has a few issues of his own.
The near nonstop action and easy-to-follow plot kept me engrossed from beginning to end - to the point of being oblivious to what was on TV (well, except for the Alabama-Clemson national title football game - go Tigers)! I thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review it. Well done!
Dead Gone by T.J. Brearton (Joffe Books, December 2016); 337 pp.