GEOFFREY NORMAN – Deep End. Morgan Hunt #3. William Morrow, hardcover, 1994. Avon, paperback, April 1995.

   Norman’s tales of the ex-con turned private eye in the Florida Panhandle have gotten some pretty good press. I do wish the publicists would stop the comparisons to John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, but faint hope of that, I’m afraid.

   Hunt was sent to prison for beating his sister’s husband to death after a long history of her being a battered wife. Released early through intervention of a lawyer for whom he now works occasionally, he obtained a PI’s license with the same lawyer’s help.

   As the story opens, he has nothing in particular going, and is out for a pleasure dive with a casual friend when the friend’s boat is stopped by the Coast Guard for a drug search. The Coast Guard people are arrogant and destructive, and Hunt is barely able to hold his temper in check.

   Though the friend is disposed to let it go, Hunt decides to see if he can cause the Coast Guard some trouble, and find out why a man such as his friend should be targeted. The trail leads to a lawyer that his friend has mortally offended. He resolves the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, but then his friend — who has all sorts of financial problems — takes a quasi-legal job diving for sunken treasure, and then he disappears.

   All right, I’ll admit it — there is a faint flavor of Travis McGee in the way Hunt operates and looks at the world, at least in this book. As I’ve said before, Norman is a very good writer even if he isn’t another John D. He has created appealing charcetrs in Hunt, his Cajun lady Jesse Beaudreaux, and the lawyer Nat Semmes.

   The first-person narrative is excellent, as is the feel for the Florida landscape. The story this time is nothing particularly special, but neither is it offensive. If you like hardboiled fiction, Norman consistently furnishes you with high-quality examples.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #13, June 1994.

       The Morgan Hunt series —

Sweetwater Ranch (1991)
Blue Chipper (1993)
Deep End (1994)
Blue Light (1995)