Through a lens darkly is the about the only way Key West crime-scene photographer Alex Rutledge (The Mango Opera, 1998) ever views his world. And, once again, murder, mayhem, and other foul deeds are vocational constants, while ogling pretty women in various degrees of undress also seems part of the job. So you don’t hear Alex complaining a lot, even when he has to suffer one of those obligatory crime fiction beatings. Though never without its surprises, Alex’s life takes a particularly startling turn with an early morning phone call from his old Navy buddy Zack Cahill. Zack is in a bar, drunk, at 8 a.m.—not typical behavior even for erratic Zack. “Get down here, amigo,” he says. The place is only an eight-minute drive from Alex’s house, but when he arrives his unpredictable friend is gone. In his wake are a bar tab and a gold Rolex left behind as surety while Zack reportedly returned to his hotel for a forgotten wallet. What hotel? And why a hotel as opposed to Alex’s house, where he has so frequently stayed before? In the days that follow, Zack remains missing. Surfacing in his stead, however, is a collection of disturbing strangers with connections to him—a trio of shady so-called business partners, a beautiful ex-mistress, and assorted banditos with itchy trigger fingers. Clearly, Zack is up to his irritating neck in something as nefarious as it is dangerous. Alex is amiable, the style breezy and amusing, but you—ll need to pack a sack with breadcrumbs to follow the mazelike plot.