September 05, 2014

Native aspects of Deep Shadow

Deep Shadow (Doc Ford)From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At the start of bestseller White's outstanding 17th Doc Ford thriller (after Dead Silence), two low-life ex-cons, King and Perry, are on the lam after killing a family of five in a burglary. They end up in Doc's neck of the woods, or rather his neck of the swamp, in central Florida. Doc; his boat-bum hipster pal, Tomlinson; troubled Indian teen Will Chaser, who played a key role in Dead Silence; and Arlis Futch, a crusty old fisherman, have arrived at a small lake, which they intend to search for Batista's treasure plane, which disappeared in 1958 while flying the ex-dictator's looted booty out of Cuba during the Castro takeover. King and Perry, who are as bad as they come, quickly take control of the others, forcing Doc and friends to continue diving in the lake, after which the pair plan to kill them all. Throw in a giant, mysterious swamp creature with an appetite for cattle, horses, and divers, and you've got a nail-biter that's virtually impossible to put down.

Surprisingly Disappointing
By Gregory K. Brill on June 12, 2010

Having been a fan of the Doc Ford series for years, I was excited to get my hands on the latest installment. I was greatly disappointed by the time I was four chapters in, and the disappointment continues throughout the book. The vast majority of the story takes place along the shore or beneath the surface of a sink hole lake somewhere near Orlando. Unfortunately, this book lacks the character development of both antagonists and protagonists that one has come to expect from Randy Wayne White. White, who is known for his vivid and captivating descriptions of the Florida lifestyle, culture, and locations, simply falls flat in this book. Well over two-thirds of the book take place along a linear timeline in and around the lake. What is even more surprising is that White spends a tedious amount of time trying to establish the dire straits that his friends Tomlinson and Will are in when trapped by an underwater landslide and then seems to forget that sense of urgency (they only have 15 minutes worth of air lefft )over the next several CHAPTERS). The book lacks the character development, story line, or use of the qualities of Doc Ford that once made these books a "first buy." Bottom line for this story...this book does not fit into the Doc Ford series, and if you are a fan...wait for this one to come out on the sale rack!!
Book review: 'Deep Shadow' by Randy Wayne White

By Shawna SeedDeep Shadow is the 17th Doc Ford book, and a long-running series poses certain challenges. Too much back story bores longtime readers; too little renders a book inaccessible to new ones.

White sketches out Ford and Tomlinson economically--he's had plenty of practice. The exposition gets clunky for Chaser, a carryover character from the last novel. If he reappears a third time, perhaps White will have him down pat. After being buried alive in Dead Silence and trapped underwater in Deep Shadow, however, Chaser may want to skip the next installment.

The least dynamic characters are the ex-cons. The hero astutely assesses their personalities and plays the two crooks against each other, but readers may find the pair indistinguishable. The swamp creature, however--now there's an interesting and surprisingly plausible villain.

In the end, White's strength is not the nuanced development of each character but his ability to ratchet up the action to keep readers turning the pages. And readers will keep turning the pages, if only to find out the answer to the novel's burning question: What is that thing?
Comment:  Deep Shadow has a couple of Native aspects:

1) Will Chaser, the Cherokee youth from a troubled home. At first he's surly and uncommunicative, but he loosens up when Ford lets him scuba-dive. When he and Tomlinson are trapped underwater, he takes charge while Tomlinson drifts off in a New Age cloud.

Chaser isn't particularly stereotypical, but he isn't well-drawn either. He's kind of an average character all around.

He does have some bizarre ability to sense things (vibrations? lifeforces?) in the land around him. I think this ability appears in a flashback and doesn't play a role in the present-day story. It's odd to give him a pseudo-superpower and it's odd that he never uses it.

2) The creature's lair is a small underground cavern connected to the lake. A pre-Columbian Indian is buried there along with some of his artifacts or "treasure." Chaser and Tomlinson have to pass through this cavern before they escape, so the book gives us a bit of Florida Native lore.

Anyway, I agree with the negative review above. Deep Shadow was no page-turner. It's the sort of potboiler you might read in an airport if you had nothing better to do, but no more. Rob's rating: 7.0 of 10.

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