Backwoods Florida, well off the tourist track, is the cheerless backdrop to the search for a serial killer—in a lengthy police procedural by the author of King of the Roses (1983). The police in the proceedings are a grumpy lot of state homicide detectives and several equally touchy local officials in the towns, counties, and swamps that lie between Naples and Miami. Detective Joe Hope is the state investigator doing most of the legwork. A fading star recently abandoned by his girlfriend and on the outs with the powers that be, Hope cannot resist following his own theories in the effort to find the man who has been murdering lone women and ditching their bodies without causing comment. Hope's agency is backing his rival on the squad, a creep who thinks he's on the right track with a shaky composite drawing of the supposed killer, but Hope follows his own trail across the state and into the Everglades, where a spunky female game-warden may have become the latest victim. The trail is crossed by the scents of the subhuman and depraved Caucasian and rather better behaved Native Americans who choose to live in the midst of alligators, herons, panthers, mosquitoes, and razor-tipped vegetation where poachers and sinkholes outnumber tourists and swimming pools. For various reasons, Detective Hope has numerous encounters with the nubile but too-young niece of an old friend, with his confused and unpleasant former stepson, and with his compulsively tidy ex-wife. The detective story, which isn't at all bad, is swamped by the endless evocation of the Everglades. There's never an editor around when you need one these days.
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