« Miguel's Gift by Bruce Kading | Main | Executive Order by Max Allan Collins »

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne White

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 21, 2017

I get a kick out of the characters in the Doc Ford novels. The secondary characters primarily exist to provide comic relief. Tomlinson, in particular, is a perfect foil to Doc Ford. Tomlinson is good-hearted but annoying, and he’s a magnet for trouble, not that Ford can’t find enough trouble on his own.

In Mangrove Lightning, Ford and Tomlinson find themselves chasing crazy people in Florida’s mangroves, the kind who capture young women and find creative ways to torture and kill them. Ford is drawn into the investigation by Tomlinson, who is concerned about the disappearance of Gracie, the niece of legendary fishing guide Tootsie Barlow. Ford thinks he should know better than to listen to Tomlinson, but it turns out (as it has in other books in the series) that Tomlinson’s tenuous connection to the world sometimes delivers insights that less addled individuals fail to perceive.

In any event, finding the creepy swamp dwellers is only the start of Doc Ford’s latest adventure. The mystery, largely driven by Tomlinson’s spiritual awareness (or drug consumption), addresses the connection between the present and a history of Chinese slavery, rum runners from Cuba, gangsters, land developers in southern Florida, and demons from Chinese mythology … unless they aren’t mythological. There are even crazy killers who kill with lightning, which is a creative twist on the crazy killer theme.

The plot is strange in a good way, the story more about Tomlinson than Doc Ford, who is off on a romp of his own, investigating a child porn ring. I didn’t have a problem with spotlighting Tomlinson since the character really shines in this story. Hannah Smith, another good character from the past, also plays a key role. The creepiness of the villains might be a bit much for sensitive readers, but the story isn’t overly graphic. Randy Wayne White allows the reader’s imagination to fill in the bloodier gaps.

Despite the novel’s tongue-in-cheek nature, Mangrove Lightning races to a powerful conclusion. The ending is very dark, much more so than the story that precedes it, and generally darker than is common in the series. It might not be a good fit for readers who want unfailingly happy endings. There is nevertheless some light in the darkness, in that this turns out to be a story about courage and endurance in the face of extreme peril … and creepiness.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.