Pepperfish Keys

genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly

“Special agent Barrett “Bear” Raines has some slippery fish to fry in Wimberley’s cleverly constructed fourth procedural (after 2001’s Strawman’s Hammock), which hinges on the gruesome murder of Beth Ann Stanton, daughter of Florida senator Baxter Stanton. Raines, “a black cop in a white town”—that of Deacon Beach, just north of the Pepperfish Keys—is still smarting from his recent failure to tie the senator’s wealth to dirty money. Eddy DeLeon, Beth Ann’s boyfriend and a local criminal, becomes a key suspect after his tryst with Beth Ann on the day of the murder comes to light. When Sharon Fowler, an ambitious local TV reporter, offers to help Bear nail DeLeon, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent agrees despite his misgivings. The twisted killer—whose identity is a real shocker—challenges Bear to trust his gut instincts as well as standard investigative procedure. Wimberley is a top-notch writer with command of both his plot and the northwestern Florida coastal setting.”  Publishers’ Weekly .

The investigation into Senator Baxter Stanton’s money laundering on behalf of local drug kingpin Eddy DeLeon ends badly for Florida state cop Barrett Raines, who becomes the Judas goat when a judge dismisses the case for lack of credible evidence. Then, when Beth Ann, the senator’s daughter, is murdered, Raines improbably catches the case and finds an unexpected ally in television reporter Sharon Fowler, Raines’ most virulent critic when he investigated the senator. The fourth “Bear” Raines case ranges from Florida to Los Angeles, and its melodious prose brings the same sense of paradise lost to northwest Florida that James Lee Burke evokes in his Louisiana-set Dave Robicheaux novels. Raines is indeed a bear, both in carriage and in ferocious determination. The senator is publicly grieving, but Raines senses an ambivalence about the senator’s desire to see the killer apprehended. It seems the senator’s alleged partner, Eddy DeLeon, is the most likely suspect, but if he’s apprehended, his motive would link him to the senator and would thereby reconstitute the money-laundering charges. If not now, then very soon, Raines should join Robicheaux, John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser at the hard-boiled-hero head table. Lukowsky, Wes Copyright © American Library Association.

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