As if reconstructing the real-life, century-old tale of Florida’s most notorious outlaw couple weren’t enough, Buchanan (Legally Dead, 2008, etc.) dovetails it with a parallel modern-day story in this ambitious, inventive saga.
Florida historians have long remembered John Ashley and Laura Upthegrove as a prototypical Bonnie and Clyde. Separated for years by the lies of Lucy Ashley, the come-hither wife of John’s brother Bill, they rediscover each other, light up the bed sheets and head for Miami Beach, a hamlet that visionary millionaire Carl Fisher dreams of making into a major attraction. But their own dreams are waylaid when John kills his Seminole companion DeSoto Tiger and the authorities refuse to accept his story of self-defense, driving him off the straight and narrow and into the arms of bank robber Kid Lowe and a series of equally unsavory accomplices. Meanwhile, back in 2011, the investigation Sgt. John Ashley of Miami Homicide has launched into the shooting of playboy lobbyist Ron Jon Eagle turns intriguing when fashion model Laura Groves seems strangely familiar, then radioactive when two other models are killed and John shoots an intruder who’s been waiting in ambush in his house. The parallels between the two stories are many and intricate. Both involve couples named John and Laura on the run after the shooting of a Native American provokes more murders among the law-enforcement community; both Johns are aided by loyal brothers named Robert and shot in the eye by their own allies; and Laura Groves’ great-grandmother turns up at the end to neatly tie both stories together.
The nonstop action and romance go a long way toward offsetting the frequent shapelessness of both stories—especially the tale of the real-life outlaws, which all too often reads like an extended summary of old newspaper articles.