Key West has been a geographical muse for a gamut of writers from Wallace Stevens to Jimmy Buffett. Cast almost adrift, the last pearl on the string of islands that make up the end of America's East Coast, Key West endures in our imaginations as an expatriate paradise, a pirate hideaway, and a perpetual party. In his debut novel, The Mango Opera
, Tom Corcoran does little to shatter these illusions. Indeed, he does quite a bit to fill out the uninitiated reader's understanding of the secretive and steamy history of Cayo Hueso
Corcoran's hero, Alex Rutledge is a freelance photographer whose island life has taken a turn for the worse with the recent departure of his girlfriend, Annie Minnette. When he isn't shooting magazine glossies and menu food, Rutledge does a bit of forensic work for local law enforcement agencies. It's easy money until the morning he finds Annie's look-alike roommate posed for some gruesome portraits on the other side of his lens. Police begin to suspect a serial killer as the list of victims grows, and Rutledge suspects something more sinister when he realizes the list of victims reads like a page or two from his own little black book.
Like a tropical chef, Corcoran flavors The Mango Opera with colorful characters, crisp dialogue, island history, and quite a bit of dark but highly appropriate humor. He serves it all up in tasty bites that promise to satisfy almost any mystery lover.
From Publishers Weekly
Southern Florida keeps turning out mystery writers. Corcoran's colorful Key West debut shows that there's room for at least one more. Alex Rutledge, longtime Key West resident, earns a precarious living as a photographer whose work includes some crime-site picture taking for the police. Rutledge's laid-back routine is disrupted when estranged girlfriend Annie Minnette shows up with some hastily gathered belongings after her roommate has been found murdered. Rutledge's involvement becomes more direct when additional murders and attempted murders occurAall aimed at women who are part of his somewhat promiscuous past. Rutledge's familiarity with the victims seems to be at the center of a mystery as snarled as a mangrove clump. Untangling the twists proves dangerous and exacting as a parade of memorable characters send Rutledge on a trip down memory lane that includes flashbacks to the Cuban boatlift and dubious characters on both sides of the law. With its sure feel for the Key West that resides beneath the tourist facade and a quirky, hard-edged rhythm pulsing beneath the surface calm, this debut deserves a wide and welcoming audience.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.