A Florida private investigator looks into a shady shipboard death in this fifth installment of a series.
About to turn 30 years old in 2008, Miami Jones is at a crossroads. His short-lived career in professional baseball brought him to Florida, far from his New England home; after retiring from the game, he earned a master’s in criminology and became a full-time investigator, as recounted in four previous books in this series. Now his friends and mentors want him to settle down: buy a house, purchase a car, and join the yacht club. Lenny Cox, Miami’s boss and mentor, is moving his detective agency to new offices, which has an air of permanency. Stay or leave? To Miami, property taxes mean loss of freedom, but there’s something to be said for having a home. Meanwhile, the agency gets a new case with a personal connection: Will Colfax, the businessman/skipper of a yacht in Bahamian waters, goes overboard, his body not found. Among the passengers is Ron Bennett, Miami’s friend and colleague, who comes under suspicion when it’s learned that his ex-wife, Mandy, was seeing Will. The case isn’t strong, but a prosecutor is looking for a quick win. Luckily for Ron, others who were aboard also have motives—a connection with embezzlement, for example—and shaky alibis. Further digging leads Miami to examine some suspicious shipping containers and Alec Meechan, yet another passenger, who owns a luxury-car dealership. Miami will have to weather tense confrontations and tragedy before the truth comes out. Stewart (The Final Tour, 2017, etc.) is an able mystery writer who orchestrates his tangled plot well. His descriptions of South Florida, judicial proceedings, and shipboard practices all have the ring of truth. Although new readers to the series may have some questions (why is the PI agency moving?), the novel works well as a stand-alone. Stewart’s characterization is strong, unstereotyped, and engaging, especially regarding Miami. His musings about friendship, home, right and wrong, and similar matters give the book a strong emotional anchor and subtly show his growth as a person.
A solid and entertaining mystery.