Forests of the Night
This stand-alone thriller from South Florida series writer James W.
Hall weaves an intricate tale of intrigue, from a posh neighborhood
in Coral Gables, Florida to a hard-scrabble trailer in the hills of
North Carolina. It spans generations of history, from a Cherokee
murder in 1838 to current-day vendettas.
Police detective Charlotte Monroe arrives home from a grueling day
of tests devised to ascertain her special skills at reading faces
and body language, and finds her husband and daughter deep in
conversation in the kitchen with a stranger. He looks vaguely
familiar, and when she recognizes him as Number Eight on the FBI's
most wanted list, she slips into her home office to alert the
authorities. While she is on the phone, the man, Jacob Bright Sky
Panther, abruptly leaves, and Charlotte soon discovers that her
teenaged daughter Gracey has gone missing. The SWAT team is called,
the chase is on, and Hall's singular skill at interweaving a dense,
complicated plot into a very readable thriller has the reader
Gracey, who suffers from schizophrenia, is a particularly
interesting character whose separation from family and medications
leads her to fantasies in her own delusional world. She is at great
risk as her parents frantically try to find her trail. Hall is
masterful at letting us into Gracey's Steven Spielberg version of
life, which adds pathos and occasional humor to the extreme danger
in which she finds herself.
This fast-paced literary thriller fuses historical fact, political
intrigue, corruption and family feuds with deep characterizations
of a troubled family facing inner terrors of their own. Charlotte's
innate ability to read facial expressions could and should lead to
a fascinating new series based on her character.
Hall has produced thirteen other novels, several of them featuring
a Key West beach bum troubleshooter named Thorn, which have been
widely received and critically acclaimed. For fans of South Florida
mystery thrillers, James W. Hall is perhaps more literary than some
of his famous cohorts, like Laurence Shames, Carl Hiaasen, and
Randy Wayne White. FORESTS OF THE NIGHT delivers not only as a
thriller but also as a page-turner with smarts.
Discovery of another exceptional mystery writer is always exciting,
if costly. James W. Hall has been added to my must-read list.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011