“Caribbean Rim: a Doc Ford novel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), by Randy Wayne White
Leonard Nickelby, a bureaucrat in the throes of a midlife crisis, impetuously decides to make some changes. He leaves his quarrelsome wife, chucks his job with the Florida Division of Historical Resources, steals a cache of rare Spanish coins and runs off to the Bahamas with a woman half his age.
Together, they also take along a document compiled over a lifetime by an aging Florida treasure hunter. In it is a list of uncharted shipwrecks, some of which could hold treasure worth millions of dollars.
The treasure hunter asks his pal Doc Ford, the hero of Randy Wayne White’s series of thrillers, for help. So Ford, a marine biologist with a mysterious past as an intelligence operative, takes off for the Bahamas to give chase.
Ford soon realizes he’s not the only one trying to track down the couple.
So begins “Caribbean Rim,” a meandering, slow-moving yarn that involves Salvadoran gangsters, an unscrupulous Hollywood producer, an ex-military kickboxer, Freemasonry, the kidnapping of a local child, a mysterious fisherman-priest, high-speed boat crashes, man-eating sharks and an island inhabited by inbred descendants of a 16th-century shipwreck. Among other things.
Unfortunately, the motivations of the book’s many characters are not always clear, and some of them are either too villainous or too thinly drawn for readers to care what happens to them.
White manages to pull the many strands of the story together in the last five pages but may well lose a lot of readers along the way. “Caribbean Rim” is the 25th novel in this popular series, but if it had been the first, there might never have been a second.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”