Strawman’s Hammock

genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2001

From Publishers Weekly

The highest praise you can pay Wimberley’s third procedural featuring African-American policeman Barrett Raines (after Dead Man’s Bay and A Rock and a Hard Place) is that it makes you want to read his first two – like now. Wimberley’s north Florida setting is so alive you can smell the pine. (“Resin seeped from those ancient trunks like maple syrup. The pine cones were large. They reminded you, when opened, of pineapples.”) The two principles, Raines, special agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and his wife, Laura Anne, are very appealing and believable. And the villain is enough to give you the shivers. The author’s clear and flowing prose carries you right along with nary an extraneous word, and the suspense builds on narrative interest – what happens next – rather than violent incidents. In the course of investigating the working conditions of Mexican laborers brought in to harvest pine needles, Raines finds a young woman murdered in the woods in a manner that’s viciously obscene. The suspects at first seem so obvious that it’s hard to choose among them. Raines changes his mind more than once, but the logic of his thinking is always sound. In addition to the murder, he has to sort out a child pornographer, consider an offer to run for mayor and deal with a childhood nightmare – his father’s murder. Laura Anne, a wonderfully bright and warm character, provides aid and comfort. This first-rate detective novel deserves a large audience. (Nov. 12).

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