Shadow Men, Jonathon King, Dutton, $23.95.
Jonathan King's third Max Freeman novel takes both the reader and Max further into the Everglades than the previous two novels, with creepy and memorable results. The book starts with an old crime - a crime that occurred when the Tamiami Trail was being built through the Everglades by poor workers during the 20's. Lots of men were killed or disappeared into the treacherous muck, and King rests his tale on one family. The descendant of this family, an earnest and curious young man, wants Max's friend, attorney Billy Manchester, to find out what he can about his grandfather's disappearance. Max gets completely drawn into the story of the past and the life of the Everglades. Like many good mystery writers, King uses a corollary figure to the main character who is almost like a shaman - in this case, a man named Nate Brown. Raised in the glades, Nate knows them inside and out, and can get around silently and carefully. Nate knows where everything is, including where things may be buried. King's description of the Everglades really lifts this book into the top tier, in my opinion. His prose is more matter of fact than purple, but it's so evocative of the heat, weight and mystery of the glades that reading this book will make you feel like you're there.
As Max's investigation leads him into more dangerous paths, his girlfriend, a cop, and Nate himself become caught up in what's happening - but like any good loner mystery hero, Max is too good of a guy to let any one else be collateral damage. The end of the novel, suitably exciting and tightly written, leaves Max in a place that makes the reader hungry to come back for more, to find out what path the Glades, Billy and old Nate Brown might take him on next. This novel has all the vitality a new author brings to his work, and I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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