She was tall with wide shoulders and thin limbs. She had a gawky gracefulness to her movements, like a fashion model slightly out of practice.
Another day, another boat-bum detective. I’ve been trawling through them, looking for that ever-elusive successor to Travis McGee. The hero of James W. Hall’s Under Cover of Daylight, Thorn (no other name is used), hangs out in Key Largo, Florida. There’s much to like in this book, though it didn’t please me in the end.
Thorn is an orphan – his parents died in a car accident the day he was born. He was raised by a loving couple, Doc and Kate. Kate is still living, and is leading the fight to save an endangered species called the Key Largo Water Rat from encroaching development.
Thorn himself lives in a shack and makes a marginal living tying the best bonefish lures in the Keys. His needs are simple. Only recently he’s met a beautiful woman, Sarah, who’s drawing him out of himself. But he has an old secret, and he can’t move forward until he’s dealt with it. Thorn’s secret isn’t the only secret in the mix. He will learn he’s surrounded by secrets – they counter one another and entangle themselves. Those secrets are beginning to get people killed – Thorn will have to face some hard truths before he can set things straight.
James W. Hall is a very good wordsmith – he writes poetry as well, and it shows. This style of writing, however, didn’t always work for this reader, especially at the end. The climax has a dream-like quality that made it implausible to me – kind of like a story you’d hear from a stoner – and marijuana smuggling plays a large role in the story.
There were many Christian references and images, mostly pretty respectful. The “evangelical” church one of Thorn’s friends attends sounded pretty weird, though, especially in terms of sexual practices. Of course, there’s all kinds nowadays, and this is the Keys.
Under Cover of Daylight didn’t work for me, but it had many virtues. You might like it. Cautions for language and sexual situations.