Tom Corcoran knows Key West intimately, from its unforgettable sunsets to the smell of conch stew. He writes in the manner of the Keys' laid-back generation and with the realism of its low-tide smells. He surely belongs on the must read list of those who like a good mystery excellently told.

In Corcoran's new novel, Gumbo Limbo, Alex Rutledge is a smooth-talking freelance photographer who sometimes does crime scene work for the police in Key West, just to keep abreast of local matters. Rutledge owns a home there and has settled in for a short vacation when he is jolted by a telephone call from an old Navy friend, Zack Cahill, demanding that Alex join him at a neighborhood bar. When Alex shows up minutes later, Zack is gone. He left his Rolex watch with the waitress to guarantee payment on a few drinks, but he is nowhere to be found. He is not listed at any of the hotels or on the passenger list of any recently docked cruise ship.

While Alex searches, there is a murder in the tourist district, a ransacked apartment in the residential sector, and some very strange happenings elsewhere. Alex has a chance encounter with Abby Womack, Zack's ex-mistress, which leads him to wonder if Zack's disappearance is linked to these unusual happenings.

Soon Abby is shot and slightly wounded. To complicate matters even more, Zack's wife Claire shows up. She has no clue to Zack's whereabouts, but then throws Alex a curve ball by having a sunbathing session with the bandaged Abby at his house. In the next two days Alex will be severely tested in courage and loyalty as he attempts to follow the leads to the disappearance of Zack. One lead takes him to New Orleans and the meeting with some sinister hoodlums. While there he is badly beaten and can barely walk when he returns to Key West. He has a back ache but is not much closer to the truth about Zack.

Gradually, with the help of a cast of characters not seen this side of the Florida Keys, Alex unravels a 20-year-old mystery of a smuggling deal gone wrong and its bloody effect on so many people. Lloyd Armour is a retired newspaper editor.

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