About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sanibel Flats (1990) by Randy Wayne White

Sanibel Flats (1990) by Randy Wayne White – M.D. “Doc” White, 36 years old, has returned home to Sanibel Island on the Florida Gulf Coast after serving in a secretive U.S. government agency in the fictional Central American country of Masagua (a thinly disguised Nicaragua).

Trained as a marine biologist he buys a stilt house and sets up a pen in the ocean next to his home for some large bull sharks. To earn income he is dissecting small bull sharks and shipping them to schools to be studied.

High school classmate and fellow Vietnam veteran, Rafe Hollins, contacts him. After the break up of a bad marriage Hollins lost custody of his son when his wife began an affair with the judge. Taking his 8 year old son Hollins, a pilot, becomes involved in some shady transport from Masagua. He swears he was not flying drugs. He is seeking Doc’s help as he has stolen from his Masaguan suppliers and they have kidnapped his son. Before Doc can work out a plan he finds Hollins dead on an island hideout.

The authorities at Sandy Key who have authority over Hollins death have no interest in an investigation and swiftly determine it was a suicide.

Back at Sanibel, Doc is being wooed by Jessica McLure, a lovely neighbour, who is a painter. It is Jessica who wants to turn the friendship intimate.

Doc has strong morals in business but his relationships with women are hardly honourable. His attitude helps keep him from being perfect but it is certainly chauvinistic.

It is not hard to figure out what Doc will do about his friend’s son being held captive but how it takes place is both clever and chilling.

One of the reasons the quest is interesting is Doc being joined by Tomlinson, an eccentric ocean neighbour with a Ph.D. from Harvard, whose life has been on a meandering course because of his affection for recreational pharmaceuticals.

I was struck by similarities between Doc and Travis McGee. Both are big articulate men. They are veterans who fought in the Vietnam and Korean Wars respectively. Each lives on the Florida coast in the ocean – Doc in the house on stilts and Travis in his famous houseboat. Each has a stern moral code. Neither has serious long term relationships with women.

They have comparable attitudes a generation apart on the development of Florida. Each condemns the relentless urbanization of the Florida coastal areas. They disdain the driving habits of the crowds upon the highways of the state.

The book has some philosophy and deft dialogue that also brought to mind John D. Macdonald. An example is Tomlinson’s reflection on danger:

“You know what I think about danger? I think if you’re walking on thin ice anyway, why not dance?”

There is a brisk pace to the book. I understand why the series is popular. There are interesting characters. Doc fits well into the classic American loner in pursuit of justice.

One of the early books in the series I want to read another before reaching conclusions about the series. It is entertaining thriller fiction. I expect I would have enjoyed it even more had I been able to go read it on the beach after buying it at the Murder on the Beach bookstore. (Mar. 21/12)


  1. Bill - Oh, I can definitely see why you would think of this as a "beach book." I do like the setting, and I was thinking, too, of the similarities between Doc and Travis McGee. Really interesting actually. One wonders whether that's where White got his inspiration...

  2. I haven't read anything by either Randy White or John MacDonald — they go right into my new-authors-to-watch-out-for list. More and more "heroes" in crime and mystery novels are turning out to be retired agents or war veterans. In wonder if this is a fairly new trend — where the investigator is unconventional, a non-conformist, and quite old but not quite out of his or her prime. Thanks for the review, Bill.

  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment and your observations. As a resident of Florida I expect White was very familiar with the McGee series. I am going to return to that series shortly to see if there are further connections.

  4. Prashant: I do not consider it a new trend when the McGee books written from the 1960's through the 1990's and White started the series with Doc in 1990.