Dead Silence

[Amazon Link]

If you look at the reviews on Amazon, you'll see that this book (number 16 in Randy Wayne White's "Doc Ford" series) gets an unusual number of negative reviews. My guess is that White confounded some reader expectations. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but my default setting when reading an entry in a long-running series is: let the author take the story where he wants.

The book is set in a slightly-alternate universe where Fidel Castro has finally kicked the bucket, a revolution has deposed the Communists in Cuba, and all is well, right? Wrong, because Castro's legacy includes piles of documents that illuminate past decades of horror and subversion. A plot is hatched to extract the documents from the clutches of the US government, involving the kidnapping of Senator Barbara Hayes-Sorrento.

Ford is on the scene, however. He manages to prevent Barbara's abduction, but the kidnappers settle for a 14-year-old Native American kid, Will Chaser, who is travelling with the Senator because he's won an essay contest.

Will Chaser is a handful. Think "The Ransom of Red Chief", except more violent. Will has a rich background of growing up on an Oklahoma reservation, getting shuttled off to a foster family in Minnesota, headed by a retired pro wrestler in a wheelchair. He's no angel, dealing weed to his classmates, and not averse to totally inappropriate relationships with his female teachers. (It turns out his winning essay was ghosted by one of his teachers.) We alternate between Will's desperate struggle to escape his captors and Doc's attempts to track him down.

Oh yeah: Doc also arranges for the demise of one of the more despicable villains from a previous book. He's in a spot of legal trouble for that. So there's a lot going on.

Minor annoyances: slipshod editing (example: on page 49, a character is described taking a "tone less differential"). And, even given my general inclination for letting an author tell a story in the way he wants, I found myself annoyed at a number of spots with the nonlinear narrative: even within a single chapter, White will start in one place, back up and describe what went on slightly before, then continue. For no good reason, as near as I can tell.

Last Modified 2014-12-10 12:16 PM EDT