Bone Island Mambo: An Alex Rutledge Mystery (Alex Rutledge Mysteries)

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9780312242817: Bone Island Mambo: An Alex Rutledge Mystery (Alex Rutledge Mysteries)

A pleasant Key West Sunday in January turns into a tropical nightmare.

It's early. The tourists are still asleep. Freelance and part-time crime photographer Alex Rutledge bicycles near-vacant streets, taking pictures for his own enjoyment. But he's challenged at a restoration district construction site, accused by a developer of snapping photos for an expose.

An hour later, the city police request Rutledge's forensic photo expertise. A murder victim has been found - at the same work site. Detective Dexter Hayes, Jr., is caustic and inept, and Rutledge is dismissed before he completes his work. An hour later, the county sheriff, Chicken Neck Liska, asks Alex to photograph another murder victim, this time on nearby Stock Island.

Rutledge soon suspects that the murders are linked - illogically, through him. He can't divulge the link to his lover, Teresa Barga, for fear of compromising her police media liaison job. Alex questions the detective's blundering, while the cops begin to link him to the crimes. A powerful real estate broker offers Rutledge an odd, lucrative job. Friends are threatened. He and Teresa dodge gunshots. Yet there is no identifiable antagonist, no motive, no reason for Rutledge to be a hub for evil. To protect himself and his friends, to avoid arrest - unsuccessfully, at first - he must scratch for information on an island where few tell the truth.

At the core of Bone Island Mambo is betrayal, retribution, and revenge. The plot twists in surprising directions, and Corcoran's characters are true characters, never as laid-back as they first appear. Visit Key West, and hang on for dear life.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, May 2001: This is Tom Corcoran's third Alex Rutledge mystery, in a series set in the Key West tourists rarely see. Rutledge, a forensic photographer, lives among the eccentrics who make Key West their year-round home. He has made his share of enemies on the island and has romanced many of the women, so there is a feeling of family about this series--with all the dysfunction that word can imply.

Rutledge is photographing a construction project when he is approached by two women, both of whom have ties to the construction project (and apparently to everything else of importance in Key West). Within minutes Rutledge is set upon by two young men who definitely mean him harm. He fights them off. Within hours, Rutledge is called out to photograph two murders--a man dressed in women's clothes and a headless corpse lying on a bench. Rutledge finds himself trying to make sense of the two murders and how they are connected with the attack on him, while also butting heads with some important locals, including Butler Dunwoody, a project developer new to town.

Rutledge can't help feeling suspicious of Dexter Hayes, the watch commander who calls him to photograph the first body. The son of a disgraced cop, Hayes makes no effort to keep the integrity of the crime scene intact and dismisses Rutledge from the scene soon after he starts photographing. Then ex-sheriff Tommy Tucker, another disgraced officer, asks Rutledge to meet with Mercer Holloway, a more entrenched island property developer.

Soon Rutledge is up to his neck in murder and intrigue, and the worst part is trying to tell the good guys from the bad. Corcoran writes in a concise and breezy style, and Alex Rutledge should be attracting more fans to his laid-back lifestyle, which always includes a murder or two. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

Tom Corcoran has been a bartender, disc jockey, screenwriter, Navy officer and journalist. He co-wrote the Buffett hits "Fins" and "Cuban Crimes of Passion." He is the author of Gumbo Limbo, Bone Island Mambo, and other Alex Rutledge mysteries. He lives in the Lower Keys, Florida.

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Corcoran, Tom
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