In a tenth outing, Doc Ford (Everglades, 2003, etc.), the Florida marine biologist with nerdy brain and steely fists, retrieves a son and kisses off an illusion.
Unblushingly, Doc gushes: “I have been madly, passionately, irresponsibly in love with only one woman in my life.” Enter Pilar Fuentes, still beautiful, yes, but altered and reduced by time’s revisionist pencil—to confront Doc with some very bad news indeed: their son has been kidnapped. Earlier in Doc’s varied (read checkered) career, when he’d been doing some pretty nasty stuff in Central America at the behest of the US government, he and Pilar had merged briefly but productively—Laken, now a teenager, the result. Then, Pilar had been the wife of General Jorge Balserio, an arrogant, ambitious numbskull ever striving to become dictator of Masagua, Pilar’s country. In the aftermath of their estrangement, Balserio, driven by hatred, vindictiveness, and innate fecklessness, hatched a scheme breathtaking in its stupidity: He would arrange a phony kidnapping to be followed by an equally phony heroic rescue, staged for the sake of the political capital he thought he’d accrue. Inevitably, what was so mindlessly hatched developed a hitch in the form of the designated kidnapper. Running true to form, Balserio chose one Praxcedes Lourdes, known to all in Masagua as “the man-burner,” for obvious and horrific reasons. Turns out, of course, that the man-burner has an agenda of his own, terrifying in its implications both for Doc and his beloved son. Send in the action hero, bench the nerd.
Still there, those homiletic digressions and faux profundities (“Communication is as rare as conversation is routine,” etc.) that have marred White’s recent work. Noticeably fewer of them here, however. Hence, his best sheer storytelling in years.