FLAMINGO by Bob Reiss


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Uninspired Florida thriller--greed and murder in the Keys, and first of a proposed series featuring a transplanted Gotham reporter--by a genre-hopping writer (melodrama: Summer Fires, 1979; WW II Nazi thriller: The Casco Deception, 1983; political thrillers: Divine Assassin, 1985, and Saltmaker, 1988) who's hopped once too often. Not that Reiss totally botches his foray into Leonard/Hiaasen/Willeford territory. Raleigh Fixx, former top N.Y. Daily News crime writer, is an appealing if uncharismatic hero with a few catchy quirks--most notably, that people tend to get murdered around him. In fact, it's his homicidal jinx that's motivated him to move to Key Rey to look into the hopefully peaceful scandal of the threatened and probably corrupt development of Bird Island, a nature sanctuary. But only hours after Raleigh's first interview--with a cable-TV host who claims inside info on the development--the host lies dead, skewered by plastic lawn flamingos, and Raleigh sweats under the hard questioning of Key Rey's chief of detectives. Further bizarre events come fast and forced: Raleigh meets with Wheeze, the town goofball, who also claims inside info; Raleigh questions a fanatical treasure-hunter and trades barbs with Bird Island's would-be developer; Wheeze is murdered by a huge man with white hair and beard, an apparent refugee from a local Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest; the cops squeeze Raleigh some more; and Raleigh meets with Key Rey's premier citizen, a reclusive pop star. Finally, Raleigh's sexy girlfriend is kidnapped by the unexpected killers--setting up a churning, bloody seaborne climax. Despite a few bright comic moments and some narrative heat at novel's end, overall sluggish pacing, pale local color, choppy plotting, and strained eccentricity sink this Floridian barge. Better to read Hiaasen's latest yacht (Skin Tight, p. 938), and wish Reiss back to the political thrillers he mishandles with far more aplomb.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's