Passion and intrigue heat up the Florida Keys as Thorn and Alexandra Rafferty–returning from Blackwater Sound—face down a brutal killer who has kidnapped the daughter of Thorn’s best friend.
Before Alexandra came into Thorn’s live, there had been Anne Joy, a beautiful woman who, after escaping the violence of her past, found something like happiness in the languid life of the Florida Keys. And her past includes her sadistic brother Vic, now a wealthy rogue businessman who specializes in the hijacking of pleasure boats and who delights in cruelly murdering their owners. Vic is obsessed by his sister and will do whatever it takes to drive her lovers away—even murder. When Vic decides that he must possess the land on which Thorn’s beloved home is built, nothing will stand in his way—not even the life of a little girl, the daughter of Thorn’s closest friend. From the lushness of the Florida Keys to a nightmare climax on the tropical coast of Central America, Off the Chart is vintage Hall.
“The master of suspense…James Hall’s prose runs as clean and fast as Gulf Stream waters.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Hall raises mystery writing to its rightful place of honor alongside the best of American fiction.” —San Francisco Chronicle
*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