Review: We got a murder victim and now we got three people dead of the flu. Storms are brewing. One way out on the ocean, one here on the island. So writes Charley Fawcett on his blog, describing the mysterious situation on Brigands Key, a stand-along thriller by Ken Pelham.
The murder victim is a John Doe, found by archeologist and diver Carson Grant in an underwater fresh water cave twenty some odd miles off the coast of Brigands Key in the Gulf of Mexico. The small island's doctor — also its medical examiner — is puzzled by the body. John Doe was killed by a stab wound through the heart and yet his body shows conflicting signs on how long ago the crime was committed, anywhere from a few hours to a few decades. The victims of a sudden outbreak of the flu exhibit their own set of baffling symptoms. The police have little to go on, but Julie Denton, a local reporter determined to make a name for herself, and Kyoko Nakamura, a scientist with a damaged reputation on involuntary loan from the CDC, descend on the island to help uncover the truth.
There is a lot to like about Brigands Key. The remote barrier island setting east of Gainesville and north of Tampa is ideally suited for this type of thriller. The author does a good job with small town politics and the island's out-of-the-mainstream residents; Charley "Eff" is particularly well drawn. And then there's the mystery of John Doe and how he came to be in a rare freshwater cave that just happened to be a new site discovered by Carson Grant, who claimed to be seeking ice age era artifacts. It's a very clever, even elegant start to a novel of suspense.
But what follows depends more on action and diversion than intellect. The sheer number of intersecting — and sometimes competing — storylines vies for the reader's attention. It's all very exciting, to be sure, but what is lost in all the activity is the elegance of the setup. By the time the mystery surrounding John Doe is solved, so much has gone on with the plot deviating into so many different directions that it hardly seems to matter any more.
In the end, Brigands Key is quite good as a quick, adventure-style read but it is a little disappointing that so much material — enough for two or three books, at least — is included that precludes it from being as suspenseful or thrilling as it could have, indeed should have, been.
Acknowledgment: the author provided an ARC of Brigands Key for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Brigands Key: Florida
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Brigands Key by Ken Pelham
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: August 2012
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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