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“Mangrove Lightning: A Doc Ford Novel”

By Randy Wayne White

c. 2017, Putnam

$27/$36 Canada; 329 pages

A storm is coming. You feel it in the air, and you can smell it as thunder grumbles in the distance. It was in the forecast, it was on today’s radar, but in the new novel “Mangrove Lightning” by Randy Wayne White, it’s been coming for generations.

Gracie Barlow had never seen a bigger woman. Strong as two men, she was, with a head like a pumpkin, a horrid odor, and a powerful slap, the woman was terrifying. And yet – Gracie knew that “Mr. Bird” was worse: on his orders, the 17-year-old had been chained, naked and choking, to a wall inside a bricked-up cubicle.

For sure, Gracie’s boyfriend was dead. Just after a fight with her mother and Gracie stomped out of the house, there was Slaten. It was destiny, and she was in love; he told her wonderful things and gave her amazing drugs. He was older, an artist, and it was his idea to go to Chino Hole in search of bamboo that he said was the best in Florida for tattooing. And then he was caught by that woman, and so was Gracie.

Gracie knew Slaten was dead. She knew she was next.

Known around Florida for his fishing knowledge, retired guide Tootsie Barlow was afraid. His family, he believed, had been cursed since 1925, due to their involvement in the Marco Island War, which pitted neighbor against neighbor and ended in the disappearance of a deputy and his family, possibly to the bottom of Chino Hole. Having recently lost two of his kin to suspicious accidents, Tootsie asked biologist-cum-detective Doc Ford to find the truth: was it a curse or just plain bad luck?

Because Ford was embroiled in the resolution of a British blackmail scheme, his friend, Tomlinson, stepped in to see what could be learned. Surely, there was something going on near Chino Hole: Tomlinson felt the area roil with evil – which he could’ve attributed to weed, until he saw a massive woman …

Gone are the days when Doc Ford was just a marine biologist who happened to solve mysteries in his beloved Florida. Gone is the perpetually-under-the-influence sidekick who thrives off the grid. No, the new Ford is more James Bond-ish, with access to über-high-tech equipment, alibis, and rich women, while the new Tomlinson is a man of responsibility – neither of which make “Mangrove Lightning” any lesser but that do make it very different.

Indeed, author Randy Wayne White seems also to be edging this novel into the paranormal, in a story based loosely on historical events that make a great tale even without the presence of eerie voices and maniacal killers. The addition of those two facets serves to stir up this novel, though, sometimes to the point of silly and other times to heart-pounding.

Even so, I don’t believe I’d take this book to bed. It’s exciting and creepy enough to cause bad dreams because this ain’t your mother’s cozy mystery. Remember that, as you’re reading “Mangrove Lightning,” or things could get a little stormy.

“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?”

By Alyssa Mastromonaco (with Lauren Oyler)

c. 2017, Twelve

$27/$35 Canada; 256 pages

Your boss is a VIP: a Very Important Person. Nothing gets done without approval from the executive suite and nothing is unnoticed; there’s a finger on the pulse of your company at all times, which is probably how the boss got to the top. And in the new book “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” by Alyssa Mastromonaco (with Lauren Oyler), you’ll see what it’s like to work for a guy who’s more than just the president of any corporation …

Born in the mid-1970s and raised in small-town Vermont, Mastromonaco says she was independent early-on and marched to her own drummer but wasn’t particularly political unless it was “cool.” Nevertheless, one summer between college semesters, she interned for Bernie Sanders and discovered what she wanted to do with her life.

But first, she worked as a paralegal. She had a short stint in finance, and she worked at Sotheby’s. Finally, she practically begged for a job with John Kerry’s team, but she says she knew that she didn’t want to work for anyone who’d ever want to run for president, so she procured a job with Senator Barack Obama’s team. Ha!

There were no working manuals for the youngest woman to ever assume the office of deputy chief of staff to the president. It was hard to find advice (“ … all my mentors were men”) and so Mastromonaco decided to write a book in answer the question of do-ability for the average job-seeker.

If you want a job in politics, “always be prepared” because “Preparation is protection you can create for yourself.” Walk with purpose; try “to look like you belong.” Before you take a job, “ask to see where you’ll be sitting.” Be “reasonable, savvy, and polite … ” to the entire staff, and know as much as possible about the people you meet. Remember that “your credit score matters.” Watch what you do on social media. Take care of yourself. And finally, when it’s time to go, go … but do it with class.

Though author Alyssa Mastromonaco (with Lauren Oyler) says she hadn’t planned on making this book a biography, that’s about half of what you get here. The other half is sass and swagger and more profanity than you should expect, mixed with business advice that sometimes hovers between the lines.

“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” indeed.

Actually, you will. This book is a unique insider’s peek at how presidential campaigns are run, how POTUS travels seemingly seamlessly, and how one person does the 24/7 job of six. Readers with their sights set on major behind-the-scenes political employment will appreciate Mastromonaco’s truthfulness: she writes of sleepless nights and “the loneliest time of my life,” as well as the rewards of an interesting job – all of which she tells with humor and not just a little pride.

This is an easy-to-enjoy book that makes readers feel more in-the-know, especially if you’re curious, business-minded, or love politics. For you, the VIP in “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” is in its Very Important Pages.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

If you go

What: Randy Wayne White book signing, talk

When: 2 p.m., Saturday, March 25

Where: Sunshine Booksellers, 677 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island

Description: “Mangrove Lightning” is the 24th, in the novel series starring marine biologist Marion “Doc” Ford and his trusty Master of Zen sidekick, Tomlinson. Author Randy Wayne White will talk about his writing, his fishing and whatever else he’s in the mood to talk about. This event is free and open to the public.

Information: 239-393-0353.

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