A Florida-based legal thriller revolves around the rumor of buried treasure.
Mills (The Hooker, the Dancer, and the Nun, 2015, etc.) returns to his comfortable, engaging setting of Pine Island Sound for this taut and fanciful new installment of his mystery series. The story opens with state prosecutor Frank Powers and “seasoned” divorce lawyer Beth Mancini traveling to Pine Island’s Tarpon Lodge to attend the wedding of two friends and get in some sunny relaxation of their own. At the lodge, Beth glimpses 45-year-old, well-off widow Helen Hanover, who’s obsessed with the pirate history and lore of this region of Florida. Playing right into that passion is fishing guide Eddie Watson, whose friend has just recently cleared some nearby land and uncovered clues to a long-buried pirate treasure. Admittedly formidable logistics stand in their path: The treasure spot is located on a sacred Native American burial mound. When Eddie and Helen are later found brutally murdered on that spot, the novel’s plot moves smoothly from romantic getaway yarn to sensational murder trial, with Frank and Beth caught in the middle of it all. Mills is a mostly sedate storyteller; his tale has few shocks and no sharp turns. He draws his characters well, if simply, and he doles out the plot’s developments with no rhetorical fuss or flourish. The two main attractions of his new story play directly to his own strengths as a writer: He employs his long familiarity with the Pineland setting to evoke the sights and sounds of the place confidently, and he uses his long professional history as a prosecutor in the Florida legal system to make the extended courtroom scenes stand out for their verisimilitude. The result is an atmospheric Florida thriller in the vein of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford novels, with Mills delivering great swaths of exposition about the colorful history of the Pine Island Sound area along the way. The author balances this material adroitly with his courtroom give-and-take.
An effective courtroom drama with generous dashes of pirate exoticism thrown in.