Dead Man’s Bay

genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2000

From Publishers Weekly

Barrett (“Bear”) Raines is a singular presence in Florida law enforcement, one of the very few African-American detectives assigned to an elite FBI team that investigates white-collar and violent crime. But when his beautiful wife and twin sons leave him, Barrett flounders at work, alienating partner Cricket Bonet and infuriating Capt. Henry Altmiller, who confiscates Barrett’s gun and banishes him to a desk. It seems that Barrett will languish in cop purgatory forever, until the mutilated body of fisherman Miles Beynon is discovered, and Altmiller needs someone to track down Brandon Ogilvie, Beynon’s former partner in a drug-related armored-car heist. So Barrett and Bonet set off for Dead Man’s Bay, “a Florida that doesn’t have anything to do with Disney World,” ruled by omniscient Irishwoman Esther Buchanan and her sexy mulatto daughter, Megan. Esther and the other rough-hewn island natives profess ignorance of Beynon and Ogilvie, until a disgruntled fisherman reveals that Beynon’s regular visits coincided with the appearance of a suspicious big cruiser in Dead Man’s Bay. Following Barrett’s debut in A Rock and A Hard Place, Wimberley develops his hero into a notable character, by turns self-deluded and shrewd. But much of the stock supporting cast (a Bond-era Slavic assassin, an island girl parading in tank top and cutoffs, a bigoted white sheriff) behave predictably, in a steamy island setting that merely seems reheated. (July)

From Kirkus Reviews

As his debut (A Rock and a Hard Place, 1999) ended, Agent Barrett Raines, of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was in a bad way. The fade-in now finds him unimproved: separated from his adored wife Laura Anne, on the outs with his trusted partner Cricket, drinking too much, smoking too much, even blowing off his job, something he never imagined he’d do–and blaming it all on Laura Anne. If only she hadn’t decamped to Deacon Beach, stranding him in Tallahassee–taking with her the twins, Barrett’s total psychological support system–he’d still be making it. But Deacon Beach, Laura Anne insists, is Afro-friendly, while in Tallahassee diversity just means different shades of tan. Chained to a desk, career in limbo, Barrett’s life appears stuck at dismal when an unexpectedly brutal murder and a few stolen millions spell opportunity, and before you know it, Barrett is tooling around remote Dead Man’s Bay, surrounded by an endless assortment of thoroughly mendacious suspects who in one way or another make a new man of him. In due time, he catches his murderer, cracks his case, clicks again with Cricket, and wends his way home to a Laura Anne suddenly eager to play Penelope to his Ulysses.It’s nice for Barrett, not so nice for the rest of us. There’s loose plotting, weak writing, and as for Barrett’s sleuthing, one of his suspects says it best: Mr. Raines, for a detective you seem a slow man.

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