In Randy Wayne White’s latest thriller, Doc Ford takes on his strangest case yet and finds plenty of trouble along the way.
Finally fed up and ready for answers, Tootsie Barlow, a longtime charter captain, goes to Marion “Doc” Ford for help. Ford, a brilliant marine biologist who moonlights for the government, listens as Barlow explains how his family is “cursed.”
The curse, Barlow explains, stems from a crime that was committed a century ago during the days of Prohibition. In April of 1925, Deputy Sheriff J.H. Cox, along with his wife and their two young children, went missing. A state-wide search didn’t turn up any clues or leads, ending the investigation without any real answers.
Originally, the case made headlines because Cox was the principal witness in more than a dozen cases against bootleggers in the March District of Florida, which, back then, resembled the Wild West due to a continuous crime wave that swept over the southern state. While the investigation ended, the case was never closed.
In the present, Tootsie Barlow believes wholeheartedly that his father was involved in Cox’s disappearance, and thus his family is cursed for the sins of Albert Barlow.
The theory, at first, seems to fit when Barlow lists the many unfortunate events that have plagued his family. A list that grows longer when it’s revealed that Gracie Barlow, Tootsie’s teenage niece, has vanished without a trace–not all that different from how Cox disappeared a century ago.
To right the wrongs that have tormented the Barlow family, Doc sets out to find Gracie before it’s too late and to help end the Barlows’ problems once and for all.
Throughout the novel, the author weaves fiction and historical fact (the Cox family was real and they did, in fact, vanish in the 1920s), creating a menacing blend of high-stakes situations and endless suspense. There’s also a number of side plots, one of which involves Ford trying to catch a child pornographer in the Bahamas, and another where he helps save a distant member of the royal family.
Doc Ford is a really intriguing character who is different than anyone else in the genre today. While he’s a scientist by trade, Ford shines brightest when utilizing his secondary, and far more lethal, skill set outside of his lab located in the shadows of Dinkins’ Bay. And with many dangerous scenarios playing out, Mangrove Lightning is heavier on the action than the previous novel, Deep Blue (2016).
With beautifully written scenery, the state of Florida itself takes on an important role within Randy Wayne White’s twenty-fourth Doc Ford novel. The historical elements are balanced nicely with the fictional story, and the author knows his way around a mystery better than most.
While there’s definitely a lot going on, and the plot does start out a tad slow, Randy Wayne White pulls it all together to deliver a compelling and entertaining story that has a little something for everyone.
Author: Randy Wayne White
Series: Doc Ford #24
Pages: 329 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 21, 2017 (Order Now!)