Everglades, number 10 in the Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White, finds the marine biologist a little the worse for wear. He has given up his daily exercise regimen in favor of beer, and he has put on some serious poundage. A visit from an old love sets his new adventure in motion: Sally Minster arrives on Ford's doorstep seeking his help in determining if her husband is truly dead. He was a real-estate developer with a history of scams, and she thinks there is a good chance he didn't drown off the coast of Florida, a notion corroborated by a photo of the man taken after he supposedly died. Reluctantly, Ford agrees to poke around into the disappearance. His credentials for this are impeccable: although he "daylights" as a mild-mannered marine biologist, in an earlier incarnation he was a government agent/assassin. The cast of characters in Everglades includes Ford's irrepressible stoner sidekick, Tomlinson, and a truly inspired villain, Bhagwan Shiva (aka Jerry Singh), a shamanistic con man of the first order. Bhagwan, if he gets his way, will cement an Everglades real estate scam the likes of which has never been seen in Florida. Perhaps more than White's earlier works, Everglades takes on a larger-than-life aspect reminiscent of the novels of Carl Hiaasen; this is not a bad thing, just a slightly different direction than some of White's readers might expect. That said, there is plenty of the crisp dialog, deft plotting and easy Florida camaraderie that characterize his earlier novels, and Everglades should provide escapist gratification for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

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