I’ve been a fan of Randy Wayne White and his Doc Ford series of mysteries for a pretty long time.  There are nearly a score of them now, and the last few have felt just a little strained.  Not so far that I’m giving up, but like maybe White and Ford need a break from each other.

The other day I found his new book, Gone, the first of a new series.  The protagonist is Hannah Smith, a fishing guide and private investigator working in the Sanibel/Captiva/Fort Meyers area.

Four chapters in, I am pretty happy with the book.  It is always a good sign when the shamus in a mystery treats wounded characters with respect and care.

Sure, there is a place for the noir tradition of the Knight in Stained Armor, but noir mysteries focus much more on rough justice, and any mercy tends to be nearly as rough.  The detective shrugs off connections, afraid his (almost always his) own damage will aggravate the wounds of the victims he encounters.

Hannah Smith seems to be the sort of character who can hardly help herself from making the world just a little brighter, a little better than she found it.  She is not a hippy-dippy touchy-feely guidance counselor, just a tough woman who cares about people, finding her way in a world filled with darkness and cruelty.

When I finish up, I will say a few more words about this one.

I guess I should have said, “Several weeks after I finish reading this, I will say a few more words …”

In any case, the character never wimped, recovered from mistakes with more grit than grace, and left me wanting more in the end.

If White begins alternating Ford and Smith stories, I hope it helps him stay fresh.

Oh, one more thing, this story is not just set in the same geographic area as the Doc Ford stories, it’s part of the same milieu.  Hannah smith actually owns Doc Ford’s old flats skiff, and is kind of dating him.

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