Book Review: Sanibel Flats, by Randy Wayne White

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Randy Wayne White is a name very familiar in the mystery suspense category with his popular series featuring Doc Ford.  Set on the gulf coast of Florida, the marine biologist finds plenty of opportunity to get right in the middle of murder and mystery.
What do you think of when you think of Florida?  Sandy beaches?  Palm trees?  Miami?  Disney World?

Mr. White will surely expand your view in his successful series.  Many of us think of the Florida as ideal vacation spot.  That is overlooking the darker side that is captured by many authors who write in Florida.  Swamplands, mansions across the street from project housing, dark lonely islands that few visit, isolated beaches…are a part of the state we pass right by. Then there are the residents of the sunny state.

Sanibel Flats gives us an example of the darker side of the beautiful state.  Both the island itself, and the book.  The book is the very first in Mr. White’s series that now numbers over twenty.

The Story

Doc Ford has recently left his job as a government operative (NSA), somewhat burned out, ready to start a quieter life as a marine biologist in Florida.  That life is one in which he supplies sea life to schools, and labs to use for study and research.  Innocent enough, living in a stilt house on the gulf coast, with many unique and interesting friends nearby.

An old friend, Raferty, calls Doc for help, his son kidnapped by radicals in Central America because Rafe had stolen something of theirs.  When Doc goes to meet him on an isolated island, he finds him hanging from a tree.  Suicide or murder?  The police say suicide when Doc knows it was not.  Someone is changing the facts to suit their own agenda. Is Is it the cops or someone higher than that?

More importantly than that, an eight year old boy is still missing.

Central America Unrest

Doc’s  past isn’t quite  ready to let him go.  The little boy is being held in Central America, in the very country Doc promised to avoid.

Sneaking into the country may be the easy part of the trip.  Connecting with one faction, a history with a woman of another faction, and the third–the one who has taken the boy–the most deadly of all.  With a war about to break out for national control, most would just as soon kill Doc as help him.

Since most of the players hold secrets, who is Doc to trust?  You may not know the answer to that until the dramatic conclusion.  A conclusion containing several twists that I didn’t expect.  Greed, power, corruption, all come together in this first novel, for an exciting mystery suspense that keeps you reading.

You can’t help being drawn into each scene with Mr. White’s talent for description.  He brings to life the scents in the air, the sultry climate, the terrain, whether on Sanibel Island or in Costa Rica.  On the water, in Central America, or traveling the Florida Roads, you will feel as though you are there.  If you know the area, no doubt you will be smiling along with his portrayal of the people and the setting.

The Author

Randy Wayne White is a prolific author with over forty books published.  When he first started writing he was working as a fishing guide.  That clearly gave him an even deeper knowledge of the area he writes about.  Before his Doc Ford series, he also wrote as Carl Ramm and Randy Stryker.  Currently he has another series underway as well, The Hannah Smith series.

Sanibel Flats, published in 1990, is one of “Hundred Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century,” awarded by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.  Mr. White has even been called the ‘rightful heir’ to John D MacDonald, the author of the Travis McGee series.

This was another book in my series of Florida authors. It was an intriguing story that captured my attention, leaving me wanting to know more.  It’s lovely knowing there are twenty-one more books to read to get to know Doc and Randy Wayne White much better.

Book 2 in the Series, The Heat Islands

Book 3, The Man Who Invented Florida


Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Mystery Suspense Reviews .

Author: Merry

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