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Average: 4 (1 vote)

2labz's picture
Written on Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Pros: a plot that keeps you guessing
Cons: hall is pretty tough on female characters

Considering what he thinks of how humanity has treated his beloved Florida Keys and The Everglades, it's a wonder Thorn has never become an eco-warrior. Maybe if he were more motivated and less pessimistic, that is. Over many years his love for the vanishing wilderness in South Florida has influenced more than one fried, including crocodile specialist Leslie Levine. When Leslie is reported killed by one of her subjects, Thorn lifts a bottle of Red Stripe in memorial.

FBI Special Agent Frank Sheffield has a love affair of his own with Florida, at least the version he remembers from his grandpa’s era, a version preserved in the family's Art Deco motel at the beach in Miami. Right now, though, he's distracted by a disaster drill, a practice invasion of the biggest nuclear power plant in Florida; and more than a little by his female partner.

While searching for his son, Flynn Moss, Thorn accidentally learns that the Feds aren't the only group planning to invade the plant. There’s another band, at least one of whom has apparently returned from the dead. When Thorn is enlisted as a reluctant team member, he finds himself snared in a mess of double-crosses like one might find on “Survivor.” 

Going Dark is James W. Hall's tenth Thorn novel, following Dead Last, in which bastard son Flynn made his first appearance. The newest installment in the Thorn series combines all those elements that make Thorn a character to be reckoned with. Although Thorn seems similar to Carl Hiaasen's The Skink, given his reverence for a vanished version of Florida, Thorn is much less comic: in fact, this guy’s as serious as a heart attack.

For Going Dark, Hall constructed a new batch of characters, most driven their own strange demons. Take the Navaho brothers Pauly and Wally, who have theor own hidden agenda inside the crew’s hidden agenda. Others include a lecherous and murderous "inside man" and a battle-scarred woman who, we learn, literally slept her way to the top. Of course, there’s Thorn's “newborn” son Flynn; he’s a twenty-something gay actor who’s still looking for a purpose in life: exactly the kind of pesonality who finds himself caught up in an eco-terrorist operation. If he were younger, Thorn might not have been a reluctant participant in this caper, but as he approaches sixty he’s gotten more cautious. That’s a good thing, though, 'cause the caution is al that keeps him alive.

Though Hall cuts back a bit on his usual sardonic humor in Going Dark, it doesn't suffer from the loss. Maybe that’s because Hall builds the suspense slowly as I-day approaches, ripping successive layers of plan, double-cross, and triple-cross as his labyrinthine plot unravels. As in most of Hall's novels, the action pits a bunch of bad guys against another band of bad guys, with his hero slipping away for the final reel. It's a lot like real life (as opposed to "reality") in that respect...

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2labz recommends Going Dark. James W. Hall

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Category: Books
Author: James W. Hall
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
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