"Night Moves: a Doc Ford Novel" (Putnam), by Randy Wayne White
One of the most enduring Florida mysteries is that of Flight 19, a squadron of five Navy torpedo bombers that took off from Fort Lauderdale on a training mission on Dec. 5, 1945, and vanished somewhere off the Florida coast.
But now seaplane pilot Dan Futch, who's been studying the matter for years, pops in on his old pal Doc Ford and declares that he may have discovered where the planes crashed.
So Ford, who's always up for an adventure, accompanies Futch on a flight to a remote section of the Everglades to have a look. Ford's mystical, frequently stoned pal Tomlinson goes along for the ride. But when the plane crash-lands in the marsh, and Futch discovers someone has tampered with it, the three are left with another compelling mystery: Who was the saboteur trying to kill?
"Night Moves" is Randy Wayne White's 20th novel featuring Sanibel Island marine biologist — and part-time intelligence agent — Doc Ford, and this one has more than its share of quirky characters, many of whom are murder suspects.
There's a smack-talking Haitian drug dealer named Kondo Obay. A dying World War II torpedo plane pilot with a dark secret. A wealthy socialite named Cressa Arturo, who seems intent on bedding every dangerous man on Sanibel Island, Doc included. Cressa's jealous husband, Rob, and Rob's mentally unstable brother, Dean. A desperate would-be reality show filmmaker named Luke Smith. Brazilian businessman Alberto Sabino, who is much more than he seems. And Doc's strong-willed workout partner, Hanna Smith (our hero is beginning to think he can't live without her).
For good measure, White throws in an ancient Indian boneyard, a stray retriever that survives a fight with a boa constrictor and some stingrays whose poisonous barbs end up figuring in the action.
White weaves in and out of the two mysteries — the murder attempt and Flight 19 — telling the story with the same tight, vivid prose his fans have come to expect. The result is another strong addition to one of crime fiction's most consistent series.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of "Cliff Walk" and "Rogue Island."