Since he first appeared in "Sanibel Flats" in 1990, Doc Ford, the hero of a series of thrillers by Randy Wayne White, has been living a double life. His quirky, fun-loving neighbors in the hamlet of Dinkin's Bay on Florida's Gulf Coast know him as a marine biologist who sells specimens to schools and laboratories. What most of them don't know is that he's part of a shadowy black ops agency — the go-to guy when a threat to national security needs to be gunned down, blown up or "disappeared."
For a quarter century, Ford has managed to keep his two worlds separate, but they finally collide in "Deep Blue," endangering the lives of everyone in Dinkin's Bay.
The trouble starts when Ford is dispatched to the Yucatan to assassinate an American Muslim convert turned terrorist. The assignment goes wrong from the get-go. Somehow, the terrorist and his allies knew Ford was coming and laid a trap for him. Ford figures that out in time, goes for the kill anyway and botches the job.
He slips away and returns to his quiet life. But when armed drones buzz Dinkin's Bay, Ford realizes his enemies have tracked him down and are out for revenge.
A former Florida fishing guide, White is no stranger to a fish story, and every Doc Ford novel reads like an old salt telling a whopper. In this one, he manages to work in, among other things, terrorist beheadings, a great white shark, a cleverly concealed bomb, an evil genius, a boat chase, a violent storm and a submarine.
As always, the story is populated by familiar Dinkin's Bay regulars including, most prominently, Ford's hard-drinking, pot-smoking, Buddhist pal Tomlinson. And as with every Doc Ford story, the writing is tight and the story fast-paced.
This series isn't for readers who prefer their plots to be at least a tad plausible, but fans of far-fetched thriller heroes from James Bond to Jason Bourne will find a lot to like.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of four crime novels including "A Scourge of Vipers."