Praise for Off The Chart



From Booklist *Starred Review*

For a confirmed loner, beach bum Thorn has a way of getting entangled in other people’s lives–and then entangling them in his defiant encounters with the outside world. This time his attempt to share his life–and his Key Largo stilt house–with Miami forensic photographer Alexandra Rafferty (from Blackwater Sound) and her Alzheimer’s-afflicted father is imperiled by Thorn’s latest crusade: facing down the psychotic developer (and wanna-be pirate) intent on stealing Thorn’s beachfront property. “A tinderbox forever on the verge of conflagration,” Thorn doesn’t take well to forced incursions on his space. Matters become even more combustible when the pirate psycho commandeers a yacht and takes a prisoner, who happens to be the young daughter of Thorn’s best friend, Sugarman. Is it Thorn’s hard-ass approach to the world that keeps endangering those he cares about? Like Doc Ford in Randy Wayne White’s series (see p.1555), Thorn must come to terms with his volatile nature if he is to right his ship, and again like Ford, he does so by trusting his “blinding resolve to go forward, driven by some secret long-ago animal nodule in his brain.” It’s those animal nodules, in the brains of Thorn and the always-fascinating villains he pursues, that drive the action in Hall’s high-energy series, but there is much more than action here. Hall forces us to consider the striking similarity between his hero and his villains, nodules firing on the same cylinders. Yes, we like to imagine ourselves wearing Thorn’s deck shoes, in a full-frontal assault on all those who endanger our world, but Hall, unlike most thriller writers, portrays the collateral damage wreaked when rugged individualists go into overdrive. This remains one of the best series in the genre. Bill Ott

From Publishers Weekly

Hall (Blackwater Sound; Buzz Cut; etc.) once again sweeps the sand, surf and swamps of Key Largo, in a hyperdramatic mystery featuring sensitive tough-guy Thorn and his live-in girlfriend, Alexandra Rafferty. Hall sums up the plot nicely at the beginning of the book: “Lunacy and violence. Pirates, pirates, pirates.” Thorn’s long-ago fling with a beautiful woman named Anne Joy comes back to haunt him years later when Anne’s brother, Vic Joy, a modern-day pirate along the Gulf Coast, decides he needs to add Thorn’s five-acre property to his ill-gotten business and real estate empire. Anne and Vic are the damaged products of a dirt-poor Kentucky upbringing overseen by a smalltime dope-dealing father and a deranged mother with an all-consuming passion for pirates. Thorn refuses to sell to Vic, triggering a complicated coercion scheme that eventually includes the kidnapping of the nine-year-old daughter of Thorn’s best friend. The local body count builds until Thorn is in an all-out battle against the deranged Vic, with a complement of U.S. helicopters and a small army of cutthroat international pirates. Hall’s crisp writing, plus the ticking-clock suspense of the child-in-peril subplot and amusing secondary characters like Alexandra’s dotty dad make this an exhilarating addition to the series.