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Snowbird's Blood    by Joe L. Hensley order for
Snowbird's Blood
by Joe L. Hensley
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Martha Cannert traveled alone from her home in Chicago to Florida, looking for a retirement home for herself and her husband Charlie. Then she vanished without a trace, and Charlie - desperate to find his wife - is now in Florida.

With stops in Jacksonville, the Panhandle, Tampa, Naples, and elsewhere, Charlie - a man with an enigmatic past - has very little success in finding his wife. Along the way, though, Charlie runs into more than a few people whose socially and legally objectionable behaviors motivate him to take drastic action (thereby suddenly and permanently curtailing those offensive behaviors): for example, murderous motel owners perish in a fire, a bigot who obsessively targets elderly people disappears without a trace, and street-smart thugs preying on ATM customers are abruptly put out of business.

Meanwhile, a mature woman has languished in a private contract mental hospital in central Florida. Without a memory, without a name, and without any friends, the woman known only as Jane Doe had been sexually abused and violently beaten many times prior to her commitment to the hospital. Now, though, Jane Doe makes her move and escapes from the hospital and makes her way in life by doing different jobs throughout Florida.

Elsewhere, back in a small town in northwestern Florida, a police officer named Tom Ryan has begun to wonder about the disappearance of the owner of a local dog food processing plant. Working only with a hunch and with tenuous clues - including the UPS shipment of a bag of dog food - Ryan hits the road and tracks down someone he believes is a serial killer on the loose in Florida.

Well, quicker than you can say snowbirds, the various plotlines converge, and Snowbird's Blood turns into a no-holds-barred, tongue-in-cheek, fun-to-read murder mystery. Author Joe L. Hensley (who died in 2007) pulls out all the stops as he combines senior citizens, cops, con-artists, vigilantes, predators, and an unlikely anti-hero in a clever and entertaining romp in which unconventional justice and growing-old-in-America are the central themes.

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