Category Archives for Two

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).

A Tinker’s Damn

literary fiction, novel, MacMurray & Beck, 2000
ForeWord Award, Best Literary Fiction, 2001

From Publishers Weekly

A Depression-era land battle in the Florida panhandle forms the gritty backdrop for Wimberly’s evocative coming-of-age novel. At its outset, in 1929, an African-American worker named Saint McGrue dies in a lumber-clearing accident. McGrue’s son, Spence, is the best friend of youthful (white) narrator Carter Buchanan, whose father, Tink, owns the mill where Saint worked. Tink has been trying to acquire the land of his arch rival Dave Ogilvie, a tobacco grower who is also the preacher in their small rural town. The rivalry turns acrimonious when Tink plots to take control of Ogilvie’s mortgage, and the situation worsens when adolescent Carter takes a romantic interest in Ogilvie’s daughter, Julia, who leaves town to pursue a teaching career. Wimberly’s previous novels (A Rock and a Hard Place; Dead Man’s Bay) are mysteries starring detective Barrett Raines. His auspicious foray into more literary territory also turns on secrets that are gradually revealed. Young Carter is suspended within a web of conflicting loyalties to Tink, to Ogilvie and to Spence. Violence in the community and revelations about Saint McGrue’s death add complications and increase suspense. The racial politics of the era take on greater importance, highlighted by local elections and a murder. Wimberly’s grasp of storytelling is admirable, as Carter faces a series of moral conflicts, eventually comes to understand the tragic secret his father holds and accepts his own part in the painful past. Agent, Andrew Pope. (Oct.)

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.

A Rock and a Hard Place

genre/ noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur,1999

From Publishers Weekly

Barrett Raines, the only black detective on an all-white police force in Deacon Beach, Fla., is forced to choose between his duty to society and his loyalty to his family in this unpolished yet promising debut. Barrett’s brother Delton has always been a thorn in his side. Despite Barrett’s stellar record, Delton’s reputation for womanizing and drinking has kept his sibling from getting the respect he’s long deserved in his racist hometown. Yet when Delton is accused of murdering a beautiful, popular white restaurant owner in a fit of passion, the only person between him and a lynching is Barrett. The cop arrests his brother and the evidence against Delton is powerful, if circumstantial and then sets out to unravel the truth, though his digging is complicated by his mistrust of his self-serving sibling. Barrett soon discovers that the killing may be tied to arms dealers based in Deacon Beach. Wimberley’s prose is spare and his dialogue catchy. The novel contains excess exposition that often interrupts momentum, however. In addition, a subplot involving Barrett’s wife and two sons drags on the narrative, and some of the switches in point of view can be confusing. In short, the book reads like a novel in search of a final draft. Wimberley’s launch may not be for readers looking for sophisticated intrigue and complex plotting, but its successful depiction of small-town corruption should appeal to those with a fondness for the pulpy side of the tracks. (July)

From Library Journal

Detective Barrett Raines overcomes racial prejudice to become the first black detective on the Deacon Beach, FL, police force. When his ne’er-do-well older brother stands accused of murdering a popular white woman, however, local prejudices reemerge. Can Barrett maintain the equilibrium necessary to investigate the case and fend off the unwanted stress? He can, and he follows a tiny clue that leads from purported blackmail to money laundering and gun smuggling. Glittering nuggets of detail, energized prose, and an admirable detective make this first mystery most worthwhile. Strongly recommended.