Shark River (Doc Ford Series #8)

Shark River (Doc Ford Series #8)

4.3 35
by Randy Wayne White, Ron McLarty

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What starts out as a normal Florida Keys work-vacation for marine biologist Doc Ford quickly turns into a hurricane of kidnapping, revenge-even murder. And while he can't see through the tropical storm, pieces of his past begin to appear.  See more details below


What starts out as a normal Florida Keys work-vacation for marine biologist Doc Ford quickly turns into a hurricane of kidnapping, revenge-even murder. And while he can't see through the tropical storm, pieces of his past begin to appear.

Editorial Reviews

Marine biologist Marion "Doc" Ford returns. In his eighth outing, the Florida outdoorsman discovers that ogling female joggers will get you in trouble eventually. Once again, White's natural touch is impressive: It's not coincidental that he's been compared more than once to Ernest Hemingway.

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Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
Doc Ford Series, #8

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THE DAY I met the Bahamian woman who claimed to be my sister, and less than an hour before I was shot during the attempted kidnapping of a diplomat's daughter, my eccentric friend Tomlinson said to me, "Know how desperate I am? I'm thinking of having Elmer Fudd tattooed on my ass. Seriously, the cartoon character. You know who I'm talking about? The chubby guy with the red hunting cap, the one with the shotgun."

My eccentric, drug-modified friend Tomlinson.

I was lying in a hammock, leafing through a very old issue of Copeia, Journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. It contained an article on Gulf sturgeon, written back in the days when the occasional sturgeon was still caught in saltwater south of Tampa Bay. I paused long enough to straighten my glasses and stare at him. "You're kidding. From the Bugs Bunny cartoons? Even a regular tattoo, I've never understood the motivation. Something like you're talking about, I just can't comprehend."

"I told you about the...difficulty I've been having."

Yes, he had. Over and over he'd told me. Which is why I thought: Boy oh boy oh boy, here we go again.

"I did tell you, didn't I?"

"Yes, and I don't care to hear any more about your personal problems. It's sunset. In your own words: The Mellow Yellow Hour. I'm trying to relax before I change shoes and run. Don't screw with the molecular harmony—again, your words."

"I know, I know, but this is serious."

"So you keep saying."

"Anything that concerns Zamboni and the Hat Trick Twins is serious. They're just not theirselves, man."

Zamboni and the Twins—my friend's private name for his private equipment.

He explained, "The inflatable monster has finally turned all control over to my brain's moral guidance system, which is like a stone cold downer." He made a fizzling, whistling sound. "Sooner or later, it happens to every man, right?...Right?"

It was the fourth, maybe fifth time he'd asked me that question, but when a friend fishes for reassurance, you must reassure. "Of course. Very few exceptions."

"Okay, so you at least have a minor understanding of the motive behind the tattoo. Picture it"—Tomlinson created a frame with his huge, bony hands—"Elmer Fudd on the cheek of my ass, aiming his shotgun toward the shadows and he's saying, 'Come outta there you wascally wabbit!' Lots of bold color, reds and greens, but still...tasteful. Something that lightens the mood but also makes a statement."

I was nodding. "Yeah, choose the wrong shades, a tattoo like that could seem almost frivolous."

"Sarcasm. My equipment hasn't worked dependably in more than two months, yet my compadre offers sarcasm."

"Only because it's such a ridiculous idea. I still don't understand the motivation. Or maybe you're just joking."

We were on the second-floor veranda of a tin-roofed house, eye level with palm fronds and coconuts. Looking downward through the palms, we could see clay tennis courts, a swimming pool, sugar-white beach, and bay. Florida's Gulf Coast has a couple of exclusive, members-only islands. Guava Key is the one you read about occasionally, always associated with the very rich and rigorously private. The island is south of Tampa, north of Naples: a hundred acres of manicured rainforest and private homes centered on a turn-of-the-century fishing lodge built on an Indian mound. It is an island with no roads, no bridges, no cars and no strip malls, so it has the feel of a solid green raft at sea—boat and helicopter access only.

We were on Guava Key as guests of management. Tomlinson, an ordained Rinzai Zen Master and Buddhist priest, was there to teach a moneyed few members a course called "Beginner's Mind," which, I knew from our long association, has to do with Zen meditation and breathing techniques. I have no interest in meditation, nor do I feel the need to take vacations. Life in my little Sanibel Island stilthouse, collecting marine specimens to study and sell, is sufficiently satisfying. Plus, I tend to fret about my fish tank and aquaria if I'm gone for more than a few days. In them are delicate creatures that interest me, such as immature tarpon, sea anemones, and squid—fascinating animals that require a lot of care. Even so, he'd pestered me about tagging along until I finally lost patience. I told him enough was enough. Unless he came up with a good and practical reason for me to leave my work and go to Guava Key, drop the subject, damn it!

I should have learned by now never to refuse one of Tomlinson's invitations by invoking a preferred alternative. He's probably right when he says that I'm obsessive. I'm almost certainly right in my belief that he's manic. When the man becomes fixated, nothing can untrack him.

What he did was hunt around until he came up with a gambit that was professionally compelling and made too much sense for me to say no. It turned out that the state required Guava Key Inc. to file periodic fish counts from adjacent waters, all data to be assembled by an accredited marine biologist—something to do with past zoning variances. As owner and lone employee of Sanibel Biological Supply, I am an accredited, independent biologist for hire. He'd contacted management, and management had offered me a generous figure, all expenses paid, for myself and a guest. Jeth Nicholes had already assured Tomlinson that he and his girlfriend, Janet Mueller, would keep an eye on my stilthouse and feed my fish, so I had no choice but to accept.

Finding an appropriate guest, though, turned out to be more difficult than you might imagine.

The first person I called was Dewey Nye, the former tennis star. Dewey and I are old friends. For a time, we were on-again, off-again lovers. On-again, off-again until we both realized that the chemistry was wrong, quite literally. Mostly, though, she is my all-time favorite workout partner. By telephone, we agreed that, after the holiday season just past, a couple of Spartan weeks on Guava Key was just what we needed to shed a few pounds and cleanse our systems.

"Every morning," she told me, "we'll do a long swim, then a kickass run. Really push the envelope. Finish everything at P-squared."

I had to ask. "P-squared? What's P-squared?"

"I keep forgetting what an out-of-touch old hulk you really are. So I'll be delicate. It's jock for 'Upchuck pace.' Only, the first P doesn't stand for upchuck."


"They've got a health club? So we lift weights heavy every other day, then limit ourselves to two, maybe three cocktails in the evening. Our own little basic training retreat. After New Year's in New Jersey—it's been gray and sleeting for like twenty damn days in a row—after a couple weeks of this, shut up indoors with Rita, her poodle and her aluminum Christmas tree, I'm not sure who or what's gonna die first: my holiday spirit, or that damn yapping dog. What I need is a serious dose of Florida heat."

But five days before she was to fly in from Newark, Dewey's roommate, Rita Santoya, suffered an all-too-familiar bout of jealousy. Latin men are said to be possessive. It's an unfair generalization, yet Latin woman, apparently, can be just as bad as their clichŽd counterparts. After a series of quarrels, Rita issued an ultimatum: If Dewey visited me in Florida, there was no need for her to come back.

As always, Dewey acquiesced.

"Maybe next time, Doc, when Rita feels a little more secure in our relationship. Don't worry, we'll get together again."

I told Dewey, any time, lady, any time, knowing there would probably never be a next time.

Male or female, the possessive ones never feel secure. Nor do their mates.

So I went through the short list: Dr. Kathleen Rhodes, but she was back in the Yucatan, doing field work. Nora Chung was available, but now had a romantic interest in a solicitous, sympathetic physician and didn't want to risk burdening the relationship so early in the game. Erin Bostwick was already scheduled to work the late shift all month at Timbers; Sally Minster (formerly Sally Carmel) was in the process of divorcing the neurotic abuser she'd married, but didn't feel right about slipping away with me until the legalities were complete.

She was disappointed. "I've had a crush on you since I was, what? Eight years old? Since the days you were living with your crazy uncle Tucker Gatrell, the dear sweet man, on that funky little mangrove ranch of his. So now you call."

Here's one of the ironies of male-female association: With women of sufficient character and humor, it takes only a few weeks to forge an intimate relationship, yet their well-being remains a matter of concern even years after parting. Their dilemmas still squeeze the heart.

One night, I found myself in my little lab, sitting beneath the goose-neck lamp, making a list of desperate last-minute replacement ladies. Thankfully, I caught myself. I've reached a stage in my life in which the little social interaction I have is guided by a simple maxim: I'd rather be alone than with people with whom I feel no emotional connection. That includes women.

Solitude is much preferred to the more disturbing isolation of sharing loneliness with a stranger.

I made no more telephone calls.

— From Shark River by Randy Wayne White. (c) May 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, used by permission.

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Shark River (Doc Ford Series #8) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading one of the Doc Ford Books, I acquired them all in bunches and loved every one. I only have three left and I will savor them more slowly to prolong the enjoyment. Not a dud in the bunch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read a number of cover blurbs that compare some author to another. The cover blurbs on White's books compare Doc Ford to the late John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. Yeah, right, I thought. Well in this case, amazingly, it was true! On a scale of 1-10, with McGee being 10, this series is at least a nine. Having read four of the series, I can vouch for that. Can't wait to read the rest. Keep up the good work, Mr. White.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only thing wrong with this book is that it ended. I tried and tried to only read a few chapters a day, but that was impossible. I could have read this book forever. Shark River is on par with 10,000 Islands and Sanibel Flats as Mr. White's best work. Doc Ford is a literary descendant of Travis McGee and might even be a better character. Mr. White does a wonderul job of describing scenery and makes great use of believable dialogue. Doc's continued frustration with his deceased uncle is vividly portrayed. The relationship between Ford and Tomlinson is as amusing as always with their very different characters providing perfect juxtaposition and conflict, adding spice to the gumbo of the plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The growing legion of Doc Ford fans eagerly awaiting the eighth book in this popular adventure series are richly rewarded with the release of Shark River. Fast-paced action, vividly drawn characters and a plot laced with intrigue and suspense leave no doubt that Randy Wayne White is at the top of his game. Doc Ford's marine studies on the idyllic island of Guava Key are abruptly interrupted when he inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a deadly kidnapping plot involving Colombian drug traffickers and the daughter of a powerful international diplomat. Heavy fire power, bone cracking combat and careening high powered test boats leave the reader breathless.....and this is just in the opening chapters. The ensuing action threatens to reveal details of Doc's shadowy paramilitary past that he has taken great care to bury. Add the complications of a beautiful Bahamian woman claiming to be Doc's sister, a nasty pair of Rastafarian thugs, a trail of hidden treasure and a menacing atmosphere of life-threatening danger, and you have the ingredients for a gripping story that the reader will be hard pressed to put down. Once again the author creates a vivid sense of place with his descriptions of southwestern Florida, and his trademark of brilliantly researched detail and a surprise twist ending place Shark River at the top of the must read pile.
harstan More than 1 year ago
He didn¿t want to go, but he did, yes he did. Doc Ford is happy to hide in his little boat in the middle of nowhere in Florida so that his past can never catch up to his present. However, his friend Tomlinson persuades Doc to accompany him to Guava Key where Doc, a marine biologist, can enjoy a working vacation.

However, his idyllic time ends when he notices two weird looking boats and hears the squawking of wild parrots that leads him to realize that assailants have attacked two female joggers. Doc rescues them, but is shot, and the cops and FBI question him. They conclude he is hiding something. When one of the victims is discovered to be Lindsey Harrington, daughter of a super important White House basement diplomat, interests in Doc turn international. Lindsey¿s dad enlists him to keep his daughter safe. While Doc struggles on that front, his personal life is disrupted by the appearance of Ransom Ebanks insisting to be his sister. If he stays alive long enough, Doc believes he will disprove her claim.

The eighth Doc Ford tale retains all the freshness and excitement of the previous novels as Doc and company remain viable and intriguing characters. The story line runs non-stop action as Doc swims in shark infested rivers without knowing who is the real enemy while the case destroys his efforts to remain anonymous. Randy Wayne White always writes the right stuff as he prevails as one of the best authors, if not the top gun, of Sunshine State thrillers.

Harriet Klausner

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I like the mixture of suspense, comedy, and romance.
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