Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review of Bone Island Mambo by Tom Corcoran (2001, Minotaur Press)

Alex Rutledge is a freelance photographer who occasionally does crime scene photos for the Key West police authorities. On a January afternoon he’s called to a construction site at which he was snapping photos of in the morning and had an altercation with a couple of thugs. The detective in charge is hostile and sloppy and Rutledge is quickly dismissed. An hour later and the sheriff’s office has him photographing another victim on a nearby island. Rutledge recognizes that the incidents are related and connected to his early morning encounter. So begins a strange week of murder and mayhem as Rutledge seeks to stay alive, stay out of jail, and catch a killer as his friends are threatened and others are murdered in copycat fashion to recent unsolved crimes.

Bone Island Mambo is the third book in the Alex Rutledge series set in Key West. Like many Florida set crime tales there is a fair amount of mayhem in the plot and colourful characters, but Corcoran shies away from flat-out craziness and crazies, telling the story more as a straight action-packed amateur detective tale. The plotting is complex but excellent, with lots of moving parts, plenty of twists and turns, and several suspects being in the frame coming to the denouement. There’s a lot going on and lots of characters, but the narrative is clear enough that the reader doesn’t get lost. What renders the tale a little flat is the telling, which lacks a bit of verve, and the characterisation, which often felt a little one dimensional, especially Rutledge who I never really connected with. I think this was partly because of the first voice narration, which sometimes seemed a little wooden. Nonetheless, the story carries the reader along for what’s an enjoyable whodunit.

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