Pepperfish Keys: A Detective Barrett Raines Mystery
by Darryl Wimberley
Review by Don Metzler
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312361396
Date: 10 July 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
A stretch limousine glides to a halt near an abandoned junkyard tucked among the dense underbrush along the northwestern Florida coast, and parks next to the rusting hulk of an old Bluebird bus. A black man the size of a child is hustled from the limo. A few words are exchanged with the man inside the car, and then the dwarf's kneecap is blown off with a single pistol shot. As he writhes screaming in pain on the ground, a ponytailed Latino steps from the limo and slits the man's throat with a razor he carries on a string around his neck. Spewing blood spatters the yellow flank of the old school bus.
Later that same night, United States Senator Baxter Stanton's daughter, a spoiled young woman in her early twenties, is found tied to a water heater in her father's home, her nude body slashed repeatedly and her throat cut from ear to ear.
Thus Special Agent Barrett Raines of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is plunged into another case involving Baxter Stanton, mere days after the inglorious conclusion of a botched investigation into alleged financial improprieties on the part of Senator Stanton. The courts have specified that Raines is not to contact Senator Stanton in any way about the recently dismissed case, but now Raines finds he must approach the Senator regarding an even more sensitive matter: the brutal murder of his daughter.
The plot takes unpredictable twists and turns as it follows a cast of characters that include Sharon Fowler, an ambitious young television news reporter who has her sights set on a high profile network job in New York; Dewey, the smarmy video technician who has rigged hidden cameras at various locations on Sharon's houseboat; Lee Thiet, a Vietnamese businessman who is all business when it comes to millions of dollars worth of pirated DVD's whose delivery has been inexplicably delayed; and Eddy DeLeon, the Honduran mobster who carries a folding straight razor on a string around his neck.
Author Darryl Wimberly has written a well-paced, brisk novel. A high level of tension is maintained throughout the book, which keeps the reader turning pages. His colorful descriptions of Florida's northwestern "Big Bend" coast provided a wonderful backdrop for the story.
If I had a quibble, it would be that some of the explosions and fire-bombings that were taking place seemed without purpose. The mortality rate by assassination was so great that I worried there might be no characters left standing by the time we reached the last chapters. It would make great television, a medium in which people love explosions and don't require an explanation for them. But while a certain level of violence is expected and even necessary in crime fiction, I felt that a portion of it was gratuitous in this case.
But all of this does not negate the fact that Pepperfish Keys is an entertaining and worthwhile read.