Florida Crime at its Best

Revenge, Greed, and Murder in the Florida Keys

murder at the beachWhat would you do if the man who murdered your family got away?

A young couple is bringing their newborn baby home from the hospital for the first time. They strap the child into the car seat, exhausted but excited, ready to begin their new life with three, instead of only two. They climb into the car, hold hands over the armrests, and put the car in drive.

But things don’t happen that way. In an instant, the family is destroyed, leaving only one very small survivor—Thorn—and the killer runs free.

In James W. Hall’s Under Cover of Daylight, nineteen years after the death of his parents, struck by a drunk driver on the way home from the hospital, Thorn is a troubled teen living in the Florida Keys with his adoptive mother, Kate Truman. Tortured by the fact that his parents died while the killer continues to live free, Thorn hunts down the driver and takes revenge. Years later, at thirty-nine, he’s haunted by his deeds, and spends his days making fishing lures and bumming around the Keys. But when Kate, a local activist, suddenly turns up dead, Thorn decides to hunt down the killers himself and seek revenge once more.

James W. Hall has written more than ten Thorn novels. He’s known for writing big, audacious thrillers full of bold ideas and tons of action while maintaining an intimate connection to his characters. The New York Times calls him a “master of suspense,” and bestselling thriller writer Michael Connelly has said that Hall’s “people and places have more brushstrokes than a Van Gogh.”

More often than not, Hall’s novels take place in South Florida and have an underlying ecological theme. “I love Florida,” Hall says in an interview in January Magazine, “and I hate to see it hijacked by those who see it simply as a buck-making machine.”

Like Carl Hiaasen, Jonathon King, and John D. MacDonald, Hall, through his Thorn novels, tells of a wild new Florida—rife with drugs, sex, violence, corruption, crime, and so much more. In a New Yorker article about Florida crime fiction, Adam Gopnik quotes Dave Barry, another Florida crime author, as saying that the genre is full of “South Florida wackos,” whom Gopnik describes as “all heavily armed, all loquacious, all barely aware of one another’s existence,” who “blunder through petty crime, discover themselves engaged in actual murder, and then move in unconscious unison toward the black comedy of a violent climax.”

On this scale, Hall’s Thorn fits right in—the dark, haunted, and isolated Thorn must sift through the “South Florida wackos” to find the criminals who destroy the people he loves. Often, they are petty thieves only looking to make quick money, but who are used as pawns in a much larger scheme of corruption.

Start with James W. Hall’s first two Thorn mysteries, Under Cover of Daylight and Tropical Freeze, or check out more Florida crime here.

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