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Black Widow    by Randy Wayne White order for
Black Widow
by Randy Wayne White
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Do you remember Doc Ford? He's the colorful, charming, and downright irrepressible southwest Florida marine biologist (and former CIA operative) who has appeared in fourteen earlier novels by Randy Wayne White (who is also the author of six works of nonfiction, a Gulf Coast cookbook, and seven novels under the pseudonym Randy Striker). Well, Doc Ford is back in action and in fine form in White's latest offering, Black Widow.

When the thrilling action of the highly recommended Black Widow begins, Ford's goddaughter, the normally tough and resourceful Shay Money, urgently needs his help: she's gotten herself and her three bridesmaids involved in an embarrassing incident during their bachelorette party on the Caribbean island of Saint Arc; now, because of some newly revealed photographic evidence of the incident, Shay is being blackmailed by someone, and the prospect of further problems and unpleasant exposure looms large on the prospective bride's horizon.

So, naturally, Ford, after some careful planning, springs into action with straightforward goals: identify and stop the blackmailer; eliminate all evidence of his goddaughter's ill-advised indiscretions; and give the prospective bride some sorely needed peace of mind. Once in Saint Arc, however, Ford begins to run into troubling complications. Even with the serendipitous help of a new acquaintance, Sir Colonel James Montbard, a man with whom Ford seems to have much in common, Ford finds himself on the verge of being outwitted and outmatched by the notorious and mysterious owner of the Hooded Orchid Retreat and Spa (a more than coincidentally and suggestively named location).

Exclusive and secluded, the Hooded Orchid - as Ford and Montbard soon discover - has important connections with Shay's problematic bachelorette party, but - more significantly and dangerously - the Hooded Orchid's dark, dangerous, and rather different owner has some personal predilections that threaten nearly everyone with whom she comes in contact. Facing a very unusual adversary, Ford finds himself hot on the trail of mind-boggling solutions to secrets affecting Shay, her bridesmaids, her fiancÚ, Saint Arc islanders, and - in an interesting subplot - even Ford himself.

Deftly written with White's characteristic flair for fast-paced narrative and plotting, Black Widow further demonstrates the author's knack for presenting a character's whole biography in a brilliant economy of words. A thoroughly entertaining thriller with a fascinating dark side, Black Widow is another winner from this prize-winning author. Don't miss it!

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