Doc Ford: Sanibel Flats (1990), The Heat Islands (1992), The Man Who Invented Florida (1993), Captiva (1996), North of Havana (1997), The Mangrove Coast (1998), Ten Thousand Islands (2000), Shark River (2002)
Note: I read these while I was recovering from my broken ankle, so take that into consideration. :)
Sanibel Flats (1990)
Doc Ford has lead an exciting life, and he is more than ready for his move to the beach and second career as a marine biologist. Too bad for him that he receives a phone call from an old friend in trouble.
Not a hard boiled mystery and not quite your typical mystery, though it does have shades of the Jack Ryan series when it was still good. Doc has a history working for the branches of government where you don’t always admit to working for the government, and those skills serve him well as he attempts to unravel the murder of his best friend.
This is, however, a guy mystery, so there is, of course, manly boinking of a kind unfathomable to me. But again, late 80s early 90s, the world was a different place.
Although it wasn’t precisely what I was expecting, I enjoyed Sanibel Flats and plan to read more in this series.
Audible Version narrated by Dick Hill
Which is nice because it was like I was listening to it for the first time! Also, there is no kindle version of this book, so audio is my only option unless I want to re-read a bunch of paperbacks. (I don’t.)
Doc Ford has retired from working for the government, moved to Florida near where he grew up, and has opened a biological supply company to keep himself busy.
Right before he retired he was stationed in Masagua where he had become friends with the president’s wife, and introduced baseball to one of the revolutionary leaders.
Unfortunately, a call from an old friend might have him breaking his agreement that he would not go back to Masagua until several years had passed, so he would not be seen as getting involved in politics.
One of the more fascinating characters is Tomlinson, who is one of Ford’s neighbors, and a washed up hippie. Yet, as the book goes on, Tomlinson has more and more facets exposed, which I quite liked.
Oh, like many other mysteries written at this time, women are not independent characters that meet the Bechdel test.
Initially I didn’t much care for the narrator, but as I grew used to them his quirks became less noticeable.
Published by Tantor Audio
The Heat Islands (1992)
When the most hated man on the island is found floating, the list of possible suspects seems to be astronomical. Unfortunately, the most likely suspect seems to be Doc’s friend Jeth, and Jeth–who seems to be going through a personal crisis–doesn’t seem to be doing much to defend himself from the accusation.
Meanwhile, he seems to have developed a bit of a crush on the tennis star who is in the area recovering from elbow surgery, and Tomlinson seems to have found a friend himself, which is as much disconcerting as anything else.
I am definitely enjoying this series–it’s neither hard boiled nor PI nor police procedural, but more a mix of all of the above.
Published by St Martin’s Minotaur
The Man Who Invented Florida (1993)
I found the 3rd Doc Ford book, The Man Who Invented Florida, to be a bit disappointing. Mostly it was because I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the point of view of Doc’s uncle, Tucker Gatrell. I’m not saying I disliked Tuck and his friend Joe, I’m just saying that I didn’t enjoy their viewpoint the way I normally do Doc’s.
Doc’s uncle, who raised him after his parents died, is involved in another plot of some sort. Tuck is an older gentleman with a colorful history and a knack for inventing things and not getting the credit for them (or so he claims anyway).
His latest plot seems to involve some sort of miracle water, from a spring on his property–or what used to be his property. The spring is also in a Native American burial mound, so things get even more complicated very quickly.
Doc, who doesn’t want to deal with his uncle, tries to ignore him, but things just don’t work out that way. Add to that a grown up girl next door as a love interest for Doc, and you’ll see that thing get even more complicated even more quickly. (Also Tomlinson has his own issues to deal with, after certain events in the last book.)
As I said, I didn’t much care for Tuck’s point of view, and the story was complicated and convoluted. The history was fascinating, but I think it would have been better served as a separate story rather than as a Doc Ford mystery, because it really wasn’t. If I hadn’t been expecting something different from what I got, I might have enjoyed the book more.
Doc Ford & Tomlinson are up in the middle of the night to watch the starts. Well, Doc is watching the stars, Tomlinson is looking for extra-terrestrial intelligence he believes is trying to make contact. Because they are awake, they witness an explosion that eventually kills the man involved. And with that the fight over netting takes a far more violent turn than it had.
Wow.This went all kinds of places I was not expecting.
If you have not been reading the series, this probably is not a good place to start, since you probably won’t get Tomlinson at all. Which makes the story a little harder to grok, since Ford’s friendship with Tomlinson is extremely important to the story.
North of Havana (1997)
Dewey has come to visit Doc over the Christmas holidays, unfortunately, Doc also received a call from Tomlinson who is trapped in Havana because the Cuban authorities have confiscated his boat No Mas. Tomlinson wants Ford to bring him the money to get his boat out of hoc, unfortunately, Ford was in Cuba before–and he really doesn’t think it would be safe for him to go back.
But this is Tomlinson, who is still trying to get over coming back from the dead (which has sadly made Tomlinson ever more flaky than he was before) so Ford feels obliged (through friendship) to go.
I…am still not sure how I feel about this book.
Tomlinson is acting even more flaky than usual, however, he has good reason to to do. I’m also not sure about Dewey and how she was acting. Essentially, everyone but Ford seemed to be acting strangely, however, they did have reason to act strangely… thus, I just don’t know how I feel about this book.
The Mangrove Coast (1998)
The prologue makes it clear that things went badly for Doc when he went to Panama, then the first chapter opens with Doc discovering a dead body. Slowly… slowly!… we come to learn that Doc was doing a favor for a friend, and got himself involved in a situation that was far beyond what he expected.
Doc also learns the danger and use of computers, though his introduction is an ugly one.
I liked the disjointed story-telling, where we start at the end, jump to the middle, and then work our way to that point and beyond. I also liked the glimpses of Doc’s past we learn as he explains his relationships with Bobby Richardson. What I was unsure about was the epilogue.
Ten Thousand Islands (2000)
One of Doc’s neighbors shows up asking him to look out for a friend–a woman she’d known for years, who had lost her only child years before, and who now has people breaking into her house and searching–but not actually stealing anything.
He agrees–and somehow Tomlinson ends up heading out with him, only things take a more disturbing turn before Doc and Tomlinson can get there.
Couple things bugged me. This was the first time a hurricane had been mentioned (despite most of the stories being set in Florida) so it was pretty obvious that Ford would end up battling the weather before the end of the story. It wasn’t horrific, but it was annoyingly obvious.
I was also a little unsure about Ford’s current dealings with Tomlinson. Tomlinson has always been flaky, but in this book he was far more of a troublemaker than he’s ever been. It just felt… off.
I guess that’s how I felt about the book in general. Just a bit… off.
Shark River (2002)