MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Writer James W. Hall is remarkably prolific. For the past two decades, he's averaged nearly one new book a year. Most are taut thrillers often set in the searing South Florida heat. Reviewer Alan Cheuse says Hall's latest novel, titled "Going Dark," proves he's one of the best genre writers working today.
ALAN CHEUSE: Hall's main character is cool, middle-aged Thorn, a private investigator who lives on Key Largo, spends almost as much time on his motorboat as in his car, uses a rudimentary solar energy system to heat his place and a windmill for power, collects rain water in a cistern to drink. But though he lives close to the earth he has had full life. And in this new novel a grown son named Flynn, fathered by Thorn in a one-night stand, emerges as one of the main characters.
Flynn has fallen in with a crew of Earth Liberationists, you know, ELF, and they're holed up on a small private island in Biscayne Bay with a view of the Turkey Point nuclear power station in the distance. Thorn discovers his son's role in an ELF plot to invade the plant and temporarily disable it and the plot deepens.
James W. Hall makes a plot that wrings the most suspense and emotion out of this material, from the effect on Thorn's private life to the danger lurking for all Miami and South Florida. In the first couple of chapters in this fast-moving novel, there's an assassination by electrocution, the apparent death of a woman chewed up by a crocodile, and Thorn's near-death encounter with a pet python.
I know, I know, that's a lot. But prepare to suspend your sense of disbelief - it's really worth it. FBI agents and naturalists, computer geeks and ELF terrorists among them, hook up for a lot of sex in this book. And some of them shoot to kill and some of them use dangerous plastic bombs, while crocodiles slither all over the premises.
What else can I say without spoiling the book for you? The novel's finale will have most readers holding on for dear life.
BLOCK: The novel is "Going Dark" by James W. Hall. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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