In Leaphart’s debut novel, an avid environmentalist, his chauffeur/bodyguard and others fight to bring down a company that’s dumping mercury into Georgia waters.
A chemist at Trans-Atlantic Chemical Company was killed trying to deliver an envelope to Alex Bosche; is a coverup underway? Alex; his employee and friend, Elijah; a detective; and the dead man’s widow risk a daring infiltration of TRACCO’s plant in search of enough evidence to prove that the company is polluting Glynn County’s Turtle River with mercury-infused waste. But TRACCO has hired its own people to ensure that witnesses to any transgressions aren’t alive to tell their story. Leaphart’s book begins as a mystery: two men cryptically discuss a dead chemist, a desired envelope and the enigmatic “Shooter.” But after questions surrounding the murder are quickly answered, the novel becomes a story about exposing a larger crime: mercury’s deadly effects on marine wildlife, as well as on humans. The author instills his novel with sturdy components that help maintain a solid pace—Morris, the Shooter, is a formidable foe who won’t go down easily; copious amounts of action fire up the plot, including gunfights, fending off a helicopter attack and battling a storm at sea; and a surprise ending leaves some characters in unexpected circumstances. Alex and company spend much of their time on a boat—often being pursued—which allows detailed descriptions of sailing that, like Alex’s occasional tirade on nature or the harms that befall nature, can be a bit excessive. But such excessiveness works well for droll prayers—a priest blesses beer and pizza and prays that the killer is killed—and seafood descriptions, especially the loving depictions of Southern cuisine. Some readers may be offended by repeated racial slurs—often in reference to Alex, who’s Cuban, and Elijah, who’s black—as well as the socially disdained word for mentally challenged children, the result here of mercury poisoning. Not that Leaphart underplays the connotation of these words: The slurs are spoken by insolent characters, and the other word (“retard”) is usually uttered during emotionally heightened dialogue.
An enticing villain, loads of action and a dash of Southern flair make for a great read.