Monday, April 21, 2014

Review of Night Moves by Randy Wayne White (Berkeley, 2013)

Doc Ford works as a marine biologist on Sanibel Island, off the west coast of Florida, when he’s not doing secret wet work for the US government.  When his friend Dan Futch, a local pilot, asks him to help investigate a possible last resting place of the infamous Flight 19, when five planes disappeared on a training run in 1945, Doc and his hippie pal, Tomlinson, tag along.  The plane, however, has been sabotaged and is forced to make a crash landing in the Everglades.  Futch fixes the plane and flies out, but Doc and Tomlinson walk, picking up a stray dog on the way.  Back at Dinkin’s Bay it’s clear that all is not well.  Two new expensive boats with mystery owners are in dock, a married woman is seeking a divorce by pursuing Doc and Tomlinson, her crazy documentary-making brother-in-law wants to capture the finding of Flight 19, and Tomlinson’s rival recreational drug supplier is seeking to corner the market.  Plus Doc has inherited a dog that leaves chaos in its wake.  What should have been some covert archaeological work is become something a little more dangerous.

The hook of Night Moves is the possible discovery of Flight 19, the infamous training run in 1945 in which five torpedo planes disappeared on a routine flight out of Fort Lauderdale.  Whilst generally thought to be lost at sea, for the purposes of the story White postulates that they crashed into the Everglades.  Finding the flight would be a major discovery, so any attempt demands a level of secrecy to stop the site being swarmed by news crews and crazies.  But such is the draw, that any hint of discovery can attract unwanted and deadly attention.  Entwined through this central thread, White weaves a number of subplots, including a manipulative diva, a tentative romance, a drug rivalry, an international hitman, a lost dog, and general carry-on in Dinkin’s Bay.  To his credit, this unlikely cocktail for the most part works, in the main because the story is engaging and the characterisation and place is nicely drawn.  The reader kind of floats along in the narrative.  Where the story starts to become unstuck however is towards the end, where the credibility of the plot is stretched to breaking point.  Ultimately, it seemed as if White made the decision that the Flight 19 was not a sufficient hook, so populated the book with a series of weaker subplots to try and create mystery and action.   In my view, that was a shame as the Flight 19 mystery should have provided more than enough intrigue to hang a decent story on.  Overall, an enjoyable read that loses its way a little in the last quarter.

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