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Book review: Plenty of action but plot wanders in 'Caribbean Rim'

Correspondent

‘Caribbean Rim’ By Randy Wayne White. Putnam, 336 pages, $27

Randy Wayne White’s 25th outing with Marion “Doc” Ford excels with the ongoing themes that have made this series popular among readers: Florida history and ecology. But increasingly the plots have taken a back seat to the Florida motifs, as is the case in “Caribbean Rim.”

The trail of two treasure hunters brings Doc to the Bahamas. Sure, Doc has an official document authorizing him but that’s only half the story for this marine biologist and part-time government agent.

Archaeologist and former college professor Leonard Nickelby has decided he would rather find booty than continue the work he also does for a Florida agency that monitors treasure hunters. A lot of that has to do with Lydia Johnson, his former student who is now his lover. Leonard and Lydia have stolen three valuable antique coins and a logbook that recorded the best places for buried treasure from aging treasure hunter Carl Fitzpatrick. But even more is at stake as con men, a sleazy Hollywood producer, Salvadoran drug dealers and $400 million are in the mix.

One of the pleasures of Ford’s series is how the author weaves Florida lore into the plot without stopping the story to expound on a subject. While “Caribbean Rim” has plenty of action, including kidnapping, assault and boats on collision courses, the plot also meanders. Leonard and Lydia just are not that interesting.

As usual, Ford’s dual life as a mild-mannered, bespectacled scientist who lives a quiet life at Dinkin’s Bay Marina on quiet Sanibel Island works as a cover for his adventures as an undercover agent. Too often, people underestimate Doc. During the investigation, one character tells Doc he “should stick to fish and give up playing amateur detective.” Those are fighting words, and there is nothing amateur about Doc’s methods.

And as far as fish — and Florida go — “Caribbean Rim” fills the bill with a visit to the Ocala National Forest, a stalled research project on sharks’ responses to the sound of boat engines, and an explanation of the value of “amber wax,” slang for ambergris, which comes from the belly of whales. The visit to the Bahamas is most welcomed, too.

Meet the author

Randy Wayne White will discuss “Caribbean Rim” at 7 p.m. March 16 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790, murderonthebeach.com.

Book and author events in March »

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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