THIS CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATED by JIM NESBITT.
It’s a fine but rare thing to find a writer who’s capable of spinning out a winning, fast-paced thriller with an intricate plot and a baker’s dozen of well-defined characters without leaving the reader in the dust, dazed and confused. Rarer still to find an author who also tells his tale with a well-tuned sense of place, deftly delivered like just the right amount of spice, adding a dash of taste and texture to the story without overpowering it.
Michael Ludden’s ALFREDO’S LUCK is one helluva read that delivers the goods described above with skillful panache. And the place we’re talking about is Florida – Miami, to be precise — with a short jaunt to Cuba and the Keys thrown in. Hunter S. Thompson once called Miami “the Hong Kong of the Western Hemisphere” and it is an exotic, seedy, luxurious and often violent place that inspires hyperbole and over-the-top caricature.
However, Ludden avoids the trap other Florida writers can’t seem to resist. He writes knowingly about the state where he long worked as a roving correspondent and editor without making Florida’s rococo wackiness the centerpiece. His story never jumps the shark and never gets bogged down in details about subjects such as the politics of Miami’s Cuban-American community. Instead, he shows discipline and restraint to keep this rollicking novel in high gear. To be sure, there are a lot of colorful characters and enough authentically painted local color to satisfy even that rarest of birds, a native Floridian. But they’re there in service of Ludden’s story.
At its core, this novel is equal parts prison break with killer convicts on the run and a murder mystery that appears to be a botched assassination attempt on a very wealthy and politically influential Cuban-American businessman, Alfredo Gonzales. Tate Drawdy, as loose a cannon as you’ll ever find in the long history of detective novels, is the Metro-Dade PD detective who catches the case. Drawdy is nobody’s fool – and nobody’s idea of a by-the-book, chain-of-command kind of cop.
He and his partner, the improbably-named Hugh Brice-Whittaker, piece together the clues that tell them why Gonzales is a target and eventually reveal his well-financed plan for payback – nothing less than an assassination plot against Fidel Castro by his own cadre of Cuban-American exiles and their descendants. Running headlong into this story line is a manhunt for four prison escapees, led by Grady Osmund, prison superintendent, and his brothers Buddy Lee and Fred. A murderous assassin-for-hire, Jacky Boy Barnett heads the cons. They leave a trail of bodies as they head for Miami’s seedier enclaves, including one of their own and more than a few of Metro-Dade’s finest.
Jim Nesbitt – author & reviewer.
The stories merge as it slowly becomes clear that Barnett is the killer-on-deck for the next attempt on Gonzales life and Drawdy, hell bent on revenge, closes in. Will Alfredo’s luck hold? You’ll need to buy Ludden’s book to find out. Along the way, you’ll be surprised by the author’s well-disguised plot twist, saved for the finale.