Passport: Florida: Review: Hell’s Bay by James W. Hall
Master of suspense James W. Hall’s Hell’s Bay sends Thorn deep into the wilds of South Florida, in a story with all the haunting atmosphere of Deliverance and the sheer terror of Cape Fear.
Descended from pioneer stock, the Bateses are an aristocratic Floridian family with vast holdings in real estate and mining. When matriarch Abigail Bates is discovered drowned in the Peace River, a chain of events is set into motion, embroiling Thorn with a family he never knew he had and a fortune he doesn’t necessarily want.
Thorn is leading a fishing expedition into the isolated lakes and mangrove swamps of Hell’s Bay when Abigail’s son and beautiful granddaughter arrive, claiming Thorn as a long-lost relative and asking him to solve the woman’s murder. Little do they know that the killer is already on their trail. Soon their houseboat becomes a precarious island of safety in a landscape of escalating violence. What does the killer want? And why is their predator so enraged, determined to kill them all no matter what the cost?
As Marilyn Stasio said in The New York Times, “If violence can be poetic, Hall has the lyric voice for it.” In this tour de force of fear and suspense, Hall shows how one family’s dark past comes back to haunt its most remote member—and may ultimately cost him his life.
I had no idea exactly what I was picking up when I purchased this book. In all honesty, the cover caught my attention and as I skimmed the inside flap I saw the word “FLORIDA” and just tossed it in my basket.
You see, I am always on the look out for titles where a location plays a prominent part in the story especially when the setting almost becomes it’s own character which is the case in HELL’S BAY by James W. Hall as evidence by the opening line:
Twist for twist, curve for curve, the two-lane road tracked the ancient meander of the Peace River through the sun-battered Florida scrubland.
What I didn’t know at the time was that HELL’S BAY was the tenth book Hall has written featuring the interestingly eccentric and haunting character of Thorn living as an unlikely hero in Florida. Thorn’s tragic past has molded his very existence and his reactions to things that took place over 20 years ago continue to put him into unusual situations. Despite the fact that these actions happened in earlier books (Book 1 ) I really didn’t feel lost at all. The author did a fantastic job of making book ten of his series as much of a stand alone as possible–which let’s face it, is no easy feat.
Instead of feeling lost I was compelled to continue reading the book. The descriptions were impeccable and painted an image of a Gothic Floridian landscape beautifully. The characters were fascinating and the mystery in and of itself was thrilling and held my interest from start to finish. it is apparent that Hall has gone above and beyond in the research department…that and he really knows the world he writes about.
In short, I closed the book and immediately went searching for more information on the author, the setting, boats and all of his previous books. Now that is what I call a win.