Hit-or-miss thrillermeister Woods (The Short Forever, p. 140, etc.) misses big-time with this tale of a real-estate developer who’s executing the competition, and everybody else in sight, in Police Chief Holly Barker’s beloved Orchid Beach.
Expecting lively interest in the Palmetto Gardens property the feds had seized from a drug-laundering operation, the General Services Administration gets deadly interest instead: Two likely bidders drop out of the action when they’re shot dead, and the shooter just misses the only surviving bidder whose offer is acceptable, orchid-growing retiree Ed Shine, as he’s enjoying a get-acquainted nightcap with Holly and her father Ham (Orchid Blues, 2001, etc.). Exequies for the departed are cut short by Holly’s discovery of a clandestine listening device in her place. Though it’s never clear what the bugger hoped to learn, his identity as Fort Lauderdale locksmith Carlos Alvarez is revealed when his corpse is dumped in the Indian River, conveniently in Holly’s jurisdiction. Since the identity of the trigger man is obvious and that of his paymaster scarcely less so, there’s nothing to do but watch (1) Holly’s turf battles with her old FBI friend Harry Crisp, (2) Holly’s between-the-sheets wrestling with her new FBI friend Grant Early, and (3) Holly’s participation in a slaughter that soon rises like a Saturn rocket as the conspirators try to cover up for their lack of secrecy and finesse by killing everybody they’ve ever met. (Orchid Beach’s Chief of Police is responsible for two of the ten casualties before a bomb sends the body count spiraling out of sight.) Even if edenic Orchid Beach is “the way Florida should have turned out, but didn’t,” it’s hard to break a sweat worrying about the deaths of so many faceless felons and their associates in the absence of mystery, suspense, or any complications other than where to put the body bags.
Juiceless, uninspired, routine: Woods’s worst yet.