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Baja Florida: A Novel

Baja Florida: A Novel

4.3 16
by Bob Morris

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Zack Chasteen's old friend Mickey Ryser pays a surprise visit to deliver some bad news: doctors tell him he has only a few weeks to live and he plans to spend it on his private-island hideaway in the Bahamas. But Ryser has a favor to ask. He needs Zack to find his estranged daughter, Jen, whom Ryser hasn't seen in more than twenty years. He wants to make amends and


Zack Chasteen's old friend Mickey Ryser pays a surprise visit to deliver some bad news: doctors tell him he has only a few weeks to live and he plans to spend it on his private-island hideaway in the Bahamas. But Ryser has a favor to ask. He needs Zack to find his estranged daughter, Jen, whom Ryser hasn't seen in more than twenty years. He wants to make amends and spend what little time he has left with her.

When last heard from, Jen had bought a big sailboat and was bound for the Bahamas with some college friends. A private detective hired by Ryser to track her down has gone MIA. One of Jen's friends has jumped ship, under curious conditions. And there's the specter of an international piracy ring, known to hijack and plunder private yachts passing through island waters.

With little to go on, Zack embarks on a mission that will take him from one end of the Bahamas to the other. It's home to all sorts of rogues and rascals, with plenty of places to hide---a wonderment of islands that Zack calls Baja Florida.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the request of a dying friend, Mickey Ryser, Zack Chasteen goes on a hunt for Ryser's daughter, Jen, in Edgar-finalist Morris's enjoyable if flawed fourth thriller set in Florida and the surrounding waters (after A Deadly Silver Sea). Ryser hasn't seen Jen in 20 years, but she was supposed to be sailing her boat down from Charleston, S.C., with a crew of friends to meet him on Lady Cut Cay, a tiny island in the Bahamas, which Chasteen calls “Baja Florida.” Chasteen follows the trail blazed by an incompetent detective hired by Ryser, tangles with a ring of boat thieves, and winds up wanted by the Bahamian police. Improbably, neither Ryser, who doesn't know what Jen looks like, nor Chasteen, tries to locate a recent photo of Jen, who's being held prisoner. That readers are privy to Jen's continuing travails lessens the suspense. On the other hand, Chasteen's knack for getting into trouble, his unusual Taino shaman companion, and a rousing ending more than compensate. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
An urgent commission from a dying friend sends sleuthing palm-tree grower Zack Chasteen off on his fifth Caribbean case. Long before Zack was big enough to play for the Dolphins, Mickey Ryser, five years ahead of him in school, took him under his wing, taught him everything he knows and remained his buddy through thick and thin and adolescence. Now that Mickey's ex-wife has died, it's payback time. Mickey, who has only weeks to live, wants to reconcile with the daughter he hasn't seen since she was a baby. But Jen has vanished along with the five friends she'd brought along to sail the Caribbean. Nor has Mickey heard a word from Abel Delgado, the Coral Gables private eye he'd paid $10,000 to find Jen. Bound to honor his old friend's last request, Zack takes off for the islands, along with his Taino sidekick Boggy and his pilot buddy Charlie Callahan, to make a few discreet inquiries. In no time at all, he's wanted by the Royal Bahamian Police for assault, arson and murder. Meanwhile, Jen is no position to enjoy the touristy local color, which has been gradually ebbing over the course of Zack's first four outings (A Deadly Silver Sea, 2008, etc.), because she's being held captive against her will. Another amiable time-killer whose hero talks like Spenser and acts like Travis McGee without posing serious competition to either one.
From the Publisher
Praise for A Deadly Silver Sea

“Short chapters bursting with energy, gunfire, and moxy give this thriller staying power. There’s plenty to satisfy lovers of suspenseful adventures on the high seas.”—-USA Today

A Deadly Silver Sea works equally as a rip-roaring mystery and as a swashbuckling adventure. Morris keeps the suspense high.” —-Miami Herald

Praise for Bermuda Schwartz

“Likable characters and an evocative setting . . . a book to be taken seriously.”—-Chicago Sun-Times

Bermuda Schwartz gets its heft from crackling dialogue and Zack’s equal-footed and realistic relationship with his paramour . . . a series that will bring Morris even more fans with subsequent installments.” —-Baltimore Sun

“A briskly paced, engaging story full of fun tidbits on Bermuda's culture and history. [Morris’s] humor, too, keeps us entertained.” —-Miami Herald

“Wry humor and engaging Bermuda history help propel the plot.” —-Publishers Weekly

“A Bermuda idyll that mixes three parts rum to one part Da Vinci Code.” —-Kirkus Reviews

Bermuda Schwartz’s island trek is as brisk and refreshing as a summer breeze with a gusty strength that sustains the story.” —-Florida Sun-Sentinel

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Zack Chasteen Series , #5
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Read an Excerpt

I was sitting on the front porch enjoying the breeze off Redfi sh Lagoon when I heard the crunch of tires on our shell driveway. Oyster shells mostly. Early-warning devices. Not as annoying as barking dogs. Cheaper than closed-circuit cameras.
Small craters and washouts riddled the driveway. Dodging the holes demanded considerable zigzagging. A poor man’s security system. One does not approach Chasteen’s Palm Tree Nursery unannounced or at a high rate of speed.
It was too early in the afternoon for Barbara and Shula to be return­ing home.
I wasn’t expecting any deliveries.
And the nice people from Jehovah’s Witnesses had long since stopped dropping by to chat. Had something to do with the time I opened the door wearing nothing but my Zackness. An innocent lapse on my part after a long night involving Guayanese rum.
No telling who might be heading down the driveway.
An actual paying customer would be nice. They’d been scarce lately. But customers, at least the regular ones, usually got in touch fi rst to make sure I had what they were looking for and to check on prices.
So who could it be?
Tourists sometimes pulled in thinking this was part of Coronado Na­tional Seashore. A forgivable mistake seeing as how fi fty-seven thousand acres of park surrounded us on three sides, running all the way east to the Atlantic Ocean and along sixteen miles of undeveloped coastline, an oxymoron anymore in Florida.
The federal government would love nothing more than to gobble up our measly thirty acres and add it to their holdings. To his last dying day my grandfather succeeded in fighting them off. The courts ruled that as long as Chasteen’s Palm Nursery remains a viable business then Chas­teens can continue to live here.
I make some money selling palm trees. Make some money doing other things, too. Just call me Mr. Viable.
The crunching got closer.
And the breeze blew a little harder.
It was coming out of the northwest, carrying with it the lagoon’s rich estuarial aroma. Lots of folks, they take a whiff and say it stinks. But it stinks good. The primal stink of Florida—muck and mangrove and all manner of briny things.
A black limo rolled to a stop at the end of the driveway.
We don’t get many limos, black or otherwise, in LaDonna, Florida, population four human beings, twenty thousand palm trees, and fi fty gazillion mosquitoes, more during the rainy season.
Down by the lagoon, a contingent of carpenters, dry-wall guys, electricians, and what-all was adding a second and third story to the boathouse. Barbara’s new office, the galactic headquarters of Orb Com­munications.
When it was done she could finally stop commuting to Winter Park and back, two hours round-trip, which meant taking Shula with her be­cause the whole breast- feeding thing was still going on.
Barbara had tried the alternative—breast pump and bottles and leav­ing Shula at home with me.
“It’s just not working, Zack,” she said after a week of trying it.
“Am I doing something wrong?”
“No, not at all. It’s not you. It’s me. The pump, the bottles—it’s all just such an aggravation. Plus . . .”
“Plus what?”
“Plus, I just can’t bear being away from her.”
I couldn’t bear being away from either one of them, but since Barbara couldn’t just close up shop, and since I was the dispensable part of the feeding equation . . .
The addition to the boathouse couldn’t get finished fast enough. The two women in my life, I was ready to have them here with me all the time.
The hammering and sawing and what-all stopped. Eyes turned to the limo.
No one got out.
I could see the driver behind the windshield. Big guy in a chauffeur’s hat. The other windows were tinted and I couldn’t see anything behind them.
I took my feet off the porch rail but I didn’t get up from the chair. A plantation chair with long arms and a rattan back and a plump, soft cush­ion to sit on. Not the kind of chair one abandons without considerable regret.
It was April and a waxing crescent moon. Shrimp had been running in the lagoon— browns and whites. We don’t get the pinks up here. You find them more offshore and down in the Keys.
The prime falling tide was still hours away, but already several small boats had claimed their positions along the channel as it funneled around the puzzlement of islands behind our house. Last run of the season, probably. The shrimp were smaller now, but still plenty sweet.
Maybe, come dark, I’d go out on the end of the dock and try to net a few. Shrimp and grits for breakfast the next morning. Yeah, that would be just fine. Toss in some chunks of Spanish ham first and sauté the shrimp with that. Even fi ner.
The driver’s door opened on the limo. The driver got out.
White guy. Black suit, black shirt, black shoes. Not quite as big as he looked through the windshield but big enough.
He eyed me on the porch, straightened his hat, started walking my way.
I put my feet back on the porch rail.
The driver stopped by the steps.
“Zack Chasteen?”
“You’re looking at me.”
“Mr. Ryser is waiting in the car.”
The driver read the look on my face.
He said, “You weren’t expecting us?”
I shook my head.
He said, “Mr. Ryser called twice earlier today. Left a message both times to let you know he’d be dropping by.”
“Didn’t hear the phone and I’m bad about checking messages,” I said. “You’re telling me Mickey Ryser is in that car?”
The driver nodded.
“He’d like to see you.”
I had to laugh.
Mickey Ryser. In a limo.
Not that he couldn’t afford it. He could buy a fleet of them if he wanted. But it wasn’t his style.
Mickey’s last visit, he’d been on a Harley Fat Boy with a fl ames- of-hell paint job. Time before that, behind the wheel of a vintage Porsche 356 D Roadster, silver as I remember.
Mickey Ryser. It had been a while.
“How about you tell Mr. Mickey Ryser he can drag himself out of that fancy car and join me on the porch,” I said. “Meanwhile, I’ll grab us a coupla beers.”
I got up from the chair.
The driver hadn’t moved.
“Please, Mr. Chasteen. If you’ll come with me.”
Something about the way he said it . . .
As if on cue, the breeze laid. Everything got still.
I stepped off the porch and followed him to the limo.
Excerpted from Baja Florida by Bob Morris.
Copyright © 2010 by Bob Morris.
Published in January 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction
is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or
medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Bob Morris, a former newspaper columnist and magazine editor, contributes to a number of publications and teaches writing at Rollins College and the University of Central Florida. He lives in Winter Park, Florida.

Bob Morris, a former newspaper columnist and magazine editor, contributes to a number of publications and teaches writing at Rollins College and the University of Central Florida. His first novel in the bestselling Zack Chasteen series, Bahamarama, was nominated for the Edgar Award. He lives in Winter Park, Florida.

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Baja Florida 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
stella72 More than 1 year ago
Loved all the "Zack" mystery series books. Waiting for #6. Excellent writer. Will be checking out his other books. Thanks for the great reads Bob Morris!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm going to Jamaica on Wednesday 12 ,2013 and i'm staying for a week just about. Also its going to be a beautiful trip because i've never been out of the country or out of state except for Kanasas. I'll post pics on (FB) (Facebook)
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dh1 More than 1 year ago
If you love John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiassen, and other florida writers you will enjoy this tale and all Bob Morris tales. His main character has a mysterious side kick just like so many great authors. All his books are wonderful and a great summer read for the mystery suspense reader. If you ever wanted to escape to another world filled with boats, blue water and a little danger this is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Y ijs he thrre:-0 :-p
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We go down to Key West and Cruise when we can so I could relate to some of the beaches and islands the book described. Made me feel like I was there.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zack Chastain is a real life charachter in a real Florida setting once called El Dora. Good suspence, touching relationships, good reading from a good friend.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Mickey Ryser knows he has just a few weeks left to live so he plans to spend his remaining time on Lady Cut Cay in the Bahamas where he was to meet his daughter Jen whom he has not seen since she was a baby. She never made it or contacted him. He pleads with his newly married friend and proud papa of a six month old baby, Zack Chasteen to find Jen, but also warns him his daughter's companions and Abel Delgado a private eye he hired to find her also vanished. Zack owes so much to his mentor, he agrees. Accompanied by his buddies Boggy the Taino and pilot Charlie Callahan, Chasteen tries to pick up Delgado's trail. Their efforts of discretion lead to boat ring thieves and Bahamian Police chasing after them while Jen and company are held prisoner. The latest Caribbean blue Chasteen investigative mystery (see Jamaica Me Dead and A Deadly Silver Sea) is a fast-paced thriller that takes off the moment Zack and the gang begin their search with the clock ticking. The story line is filled with action as Zack and crew get in trouble with boat hi-jacking thugs, other miscreants, and the police as they follow clues left by Delgado. Although the subplot depicting Jen's plight adds intensity and feelings, the short asides slow down the overall pace of a terrific suspense filled tale starring a solid trio of good guys. Harriet Klausner