by Ace Atkins
Review by Beth Slater
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425214909
Date: 03 April 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
White Shadow gets it name from the Tampa gangster Charlie Wall, who was murdered in 1955. Wall is an historical figure in Tampa's past, and his murder has never been solved. Atkins' novel is a fictionalized version of Wall's murder and the events that surrounded it and stemmed from it. We follow several characters through the investigations into the mysterious death and meet many other long-ago figures from the violent era in Tampa's history.
Atkins' specialty seems to be noir, and his novelized version of Wall's death is a perfect fit. We begin by following Wall on his normal round of bars and acquaintances as he reminisces about the old days when he had Ybor City tight in his grip. But when Wall staggers home for the evening, his night doesn't end in his usual way. He invites in visitors who then beat him viciously and kill him with a bloody, broken baseball bat. The Tampa police, notoriously dirty, have no idea how to solve this murder and much of the evidence is contaminated and/or destroyed. The reporters from the Times and the Tribune watch all of this and scuffle amongst themselves to be the one with the next break in information.
Meanwhile, we travel back and forth to Havanna in a time before Castro took control to watch one of Tampa's most notorious figures, Santo Trafficante, as he tries to keep a low profile to avoid arrest. Batista, El Presidente of Cuba, has Santo under his thumb and orders him to find a missing girl who has information that could be damaging. Lucrezia, the woman, has escaped capture and is on the run after killing some men who were raping her – important men.
This would have been a great story if it had been more cohesive. There were too many storylines to follow, especially when the characters' points of view changed from paragraph to paragraph and you weren't sure who was talking until half way through the section. Add to that, there was a whole host of characters to try to keep straight.
I'm not a big fan of noir, but I lived in Tampa for many, many years and I wanted to know more about it, even if it was fictional with historical attributes. I liked being able to follow the neighborhoods and places, but I had difficulty following the plot because so many different stories became confusing quite early on.