I also bought this book on Sanibel Island, although this is not an autographed copy (unlike A Brief History of Sanibel Island, previously reviewed or coming soon depending upon the order in which you read these posts.
It’s the beginning of a series that goes on at least three or four more books. It deals with a retired newspaperman (there are a lot of those floating around in Florida, apparently–remember, the antagonist of Slam the Big Door was one) who opens a detective agency on Sanibel Island for something to do. He doesn’t get many clients, but a twelve-year-old boy comes in looking for his mother. He has a number of cards from her, but he’s not sure who she is. He’s living with someone else now. The boy is not very forthcoming, and Tree Callister, the Sanibel Sunset Detective, doesn’t put much stock in it. Until a local hoodlum visits because he thinks Tree knows where the woman is. Then the mess is on, as the boy is on the run and hiding from cops, Tree, and the minions of a media mogul who looks to be based on Conrad Black.
It’s a bit of a wild plot, but not bad.
At first I thought the book was going to be self-indulgent in the fashion of Roger L. Simon’s Moses Wine books (see The Big Fix, The Lost Coast, Peking Duck, and California Roll) as the detective is very self-consciously sixty years old (although he’s not courting death like Mrs. Stone), so he’s dwelling on that and the prose itself throws back to his youth with a lot of allusions and whatnot. But it improves once it gets rolling.
The book unfolds well as the dilettante detective finds himself over his head with bad guys, ex-cons, and dangerous women befuddling him. That much is relatable and good, but there’s a coincidence that the plot turns on and the narrator goes a bit Mary Sue at the end.
But I enjoyed the book enough to look for others in the series in other book stores I visited in Florida (bookstores not named “Gene’s Books” on Sanibel Island), but I couldn’t find them. So I’ll get around to ordering them online one of these days. The book is recent enough that the places that it name-checks are still around (Jerry’s Supermarket, for example–I shopped there). This differs from some books that I’ll get around to reviewing after I get around to finishing them.
So I’ll read more in the line, which is about the best recommendation you get from me.