Randy Wayne White created his Florida marine biologist character Doc Ford back in 1990. Twenty some years and nineteen books later, Doc and his pal Tomlinson are recognized as iconic additions to the mystery genre. (The original book Sanibel Flats was named as one of the American Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the Hundred Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century)
White writes what he knows - Florida and fishing. White takes a departure from the Ford novels to introduce us to a great new character - Hannah Smith - in his newest book Gone. I found this character fascinating as she is written as a descendant of the legendary Florida Smith women - Sarah, known as the Ox Woman and Hannah, known as Big Six.
Our Hannah is the fourth generation. She works as a fishing guide in the Gulf Coast and Sanibel Island area, having inherited the business from her late uncle. She also inherited an almost defunct private investigation agency. One of her regular charter customers, Mr. Seasons, is aware of this and asks Hannah to look for his missing niece Olivia. Seasons believes her local connections and tenacity will be of benefit.
Gone takes us into the dark side of the Florida wealthy and their pleasures - and those who prey upon them. Descriptions of the area, the fishing, the people and settings are detailed and really bring the book to life. The plot is quick and suspenseful, with lots of action. (and I can actually see this as a action flick with bikinis and rum drinks)
Hannah is a character I know I'm going to like even more as her story continues. She's honest, forthright, resourceful - and big and strong like her ancestors. Her weakness seems to be in knowing her own self - she is only now beginning to see that she is also a beautiful woman. My only complaint about Gone would be the amount of time White spent emphasizing this point - it grew a bit tiresome. Hannah's personality was also a bit uneven - unerringly sure of herself at one point, then fussing over a new blouse and bra. I'd much rather see the strong Hannah. The supporting characters are all a bit different as well - I did enjoy her gay best friend Nathan and her mother's attempts to thwart an ugly house construction. But again, they also placed too much emphasis on Hannah's love life (or lack of it).
Doc Ford does make a cameo 'appearance'. Gone was a great vehicle to introduce us to Hannah. I'm sure the rough edges will be smoothed out by the next book and I look forward to seeing where White takes Hannah next - and if Doc is in the mix as well. Read an excerpt from Gone. You can find Randy Wayne White on Facebook.
(And watch for the next Doc Ford thriller coming out March 5, 2013- titled: Night Moves)