A smart, hip mystery-thriller set in the outback Florida phosphate district, in which Tony Lowell tangles with developers, killers, and a poison-filled sinkhole.
E.C. Ayres' first mystery, Hour of the Manatee won the PWA/St. Martin's Press Best First P.I. Novel competition in 1992. Published to great acclaim, it introduced laid-back photographer/P.I. Tony Lowell and his friend and occasional adversary, by-the-book police detective Lena Bedrosian. In this, Ayres' second effort, serious short-staffing prompts Bedrosian to enlist Lowell's help on a murder case. The victim was the bright and promising young nephew of Tony's old friend Ernie Larson, an African-American boatyard owner from his hometown. The nephew, Tim Cross, made the mistake of taking up environmental causes in the old-boy hinterlands of central Florida's phosphate mining district, known as 'Bone Valley' with good cause.
As Lowell begins his investigation he finds himself pitted against powerful industry and development interests, as well as black advocacy groups concerned about jobs, backwoods racists who resent meddlers, and an enigmatic retired baseball Hall-of-Famer nicknamed 'Gator.'
The stakes are raised even further, however, when Lowell discovers a second victim at the site of a vast, chemical-filled sinkhole that poses a direct threat to Florida's rapidly vanishing safe-water supply. Determined to catch the killer, Lowell must first survive the hazards of backwoods Florida.