Thursday, January 31, 2008

Starred Review of Hell's Bay

Well, here's the last pre-publication review. Not bad.

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: February 15, 2008

Hell's Bay.
Hall, James W. (Author)
Feb 2008. 320 p. St. Martin's/Minotaur, hardcover, $24.95. (0312359586).
Starred Review *

Thorn, the crime-solving Key Largo recluse, keeps taking chances, trying to expand his narrow comfort zone, but inevitably, those chances backfire, supporting his core belief that civilization should be avoided whenever possible. This time, he agrees to help a friend lead a fishing expedition into some off-the-map mangrove swamps, where the fish have never been touched by human hands. Nice idea,even if it means
having to socialize with the paying guests, but as it turns out, it means much more than that: two of the guests, offspring of the recently murdered Abigail Bates, matriarch of one of Florida’s leading aristocratic families, claim that Thorn is a long-lost relative and ask for his help in finding the killer. Thorn’s not buying it until it becomes clear that the killer doesn’t need to be found: he (or she?) is on their tail and intends to kill them all. So begins a white-knuckle thriller that draws on our deepest fears. When Thorn must slip into the swampy muck in the pitch-black night to seek his adversary, our blood pressure soars the way it did when Gregory Peck climbed into the water for his showdown with Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear. But Hall, able to mix thrills with more subtle character concerns as well as any crime writer, combines the action with a fascinating exploration of Thorn’s sense of self, as he ponders what it means if he really is related to Florida’s bluest bloods. There is no such thing as a bad Thorn novel, but this is one of the best of an excellent bunch.
— Bill Ott

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