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The Deadly Reef

Its not often we get to review a novel in this space, but this one qualifies because its set mostly in the Florida Keys and has lots of fly-fishing scenes.

October 3, 2001
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Review by Steve Raymond

Noble House
8019 Belair Road
Baltimore, MD 21236
Hardcover; $19.95

The protagonist, 23-year-old Powell Taylor, has been groomed to join his father’s Florida Panhandle jewelry business, but decides he’d rather be a fly-fishing guide and heads for the Keys to seek his fortune. I did not relish the thought of the 850-mile drive ahead of me, he ruminates as he waves goodbye to his family. Fifteen hours to think about whether I’d made the right decision or not.

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Of course he has his flats boat in tow and rhapsodizes about it as he drives south: For me, standing on the poling platform above the engine, moving my skiff along the shore in water less than 10 inches, is as much fun as the fishing itself. While standing on the platform, one’s view is increased a thousandfold. Once a fish is spotted, the skill of advancing the skiff within casting range is indeed an art. It becomes a challenge, a hunt.

En route he decides to stop in Homosassa for a little tarpon fishing. There he meets a character by the name of Captain Limbo, of whom he says: Although he spoke slowly with a heavy Southern accent, he was definitely not stupid. Actually it turns out Limbo has a doctorate in marine biology and is some sort of freelance investigator for an ill-defined agency identified only as Customs. Limbo and Taylor become friends and decide to rendezvous in Key West.

Resuming his trip, Taylor naturally encounters The Girl to End All Girls. Her name is Dawn and they end up camping together on an otherwise deserted island which also happens to be surrounded by schools of fly-hungry fish. Taylor becomes torn between sex and snook. We did say this was fiction, didn’t we?
When Taylor finally reaches Key West he meets fly-shop proprietor Jeffrey Cardenas, definitely a non-fictional character, who goes on to play a fairly substantial role in the book. Limbo helps Taylor get a job at a local jewelry store, where he soon finds himself involved in a murder investigation in which a fabulous piece of jewelry called The Reef plays a deadly role.

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One thing leads to another, lots of people get killed, Taylor goes fishing again, Dawn comes to live with him, they both become targets of bad guys, and if you want to learn how this unlikely tale turns out you’ll just have to read the rest for yourself.

A warning, though: The plot unwinds slowly, especially in the early going, and there are plenty of loose ends and things that don’t quite add up. These and other defects are the unmistakable signs of an inexperienced writer.
But hey, what do you expect for $19.95 these days?

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