Key West Mysteries

Publication Order of Key West Mysteries Books

Florida Straits (1992) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Scavenger Reef (1994) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Sunburn (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Tropical Depression (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Virgin Heat (1997) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Mangrove Squeeze (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Welcome to Paradise (1999) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Naked Detective (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Shot on Location (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

It was in 1992 when Florida Straits, the first novel in The West Mysteries series was published by Laurence. Shames. Between 1992 and 2013 eight more novels will be added to the series. The novel was the first piece of fiction published under Shames’ real name. The writer had been writing books under different pennames since 1976. Florida Straits was his first installment in what would be a series of humorous mystery novels. The novel introduced the readers to a number of characters that would follow them for the rest of the series.
The author’s approach to characterization is rather ambiguous. He allows no character to fully develop and appear at the expense of others. The reader is presented with a number of characters who all reside in Key West Florida. Who seems to be the protagonist in one novel is relegated to a secondary position in another. This characterization technique brought him some criticism from reviewers who claim that the series lacks the artistic complexity to lift it up to the status of a literary work and scatters the reader’s attention among various characters. However, when we follow the development of events in the whole series, we discover that the authorial concern is more to show how these characters interact together in Key West Florida.
Florida Straits
The first novel in the series introduces us to twenty seven years old Joey Goldman, the half-Jewish illegitimate son of an Italian mobster Vincente Delgatto. The novel was positively received by readers as delightfully plotted and elegantly written. Florida Straits, together with the two subsequent sequels Scavenger Reef and Sunburn manage to keep the attention of the reader on Joey and his father, allowing the reader to gain enough insights into their pasts. As the novel opens, Joey is about to start a new start for his life in Florida Keys accompanied by his girlfriend Sandra. He has a rather difficult beginning for his new life in Florida. If it were not for a retired old family friend Bert, Joey would have quit the place altogether. With restrained financial resources, the couple had to initlaly live in a compound with neighbors from different walks of life. His actions were highly resented by the locals. Eager to make things work for him, Joey embarks on a solicitor job for a time share resort.
Shames allows Joey to rise to prominence in the novel as he gives him the task of saving the life of his half-brother Gino. Gino is running away from the Miami Mafia after stealing $3 million worth of emeralds. From this point on, events will develop rather quickly in the novel and the reader is led to follow to twists and turns of the character of Joey as he tries to improve his image in front of his brother and father. Shames’ narrative skills are best seen in the way Joey is presented to the reader. He escapes Miami to cut with a family heritage of dishonor, but it seems that this past is not ready yet to let go off of hm. Critics have debated whether Florida Straits is based on real events or the product of Shames’ imagination. The question is immature, as a matter of fact. The artistic value of the novel doesn’t rely on the answer to this question. The novel’s value resides in the way it gives us an image of what life in the mafia looks like. We are led to believe that there is no way for Joey to escape the curse of his family’s connection to the mafia.
This is the third book in the series published in 1995. There are many affinities between this novel and the first one. Critical charges that the series focuses on no particular character can be easily cleared in this book. It is true that Vincente Delgatto, Joey’s father appears to be the protagonist of the book. However, a closer look at the novel will help us conclude that Vincente’s appearance in the life of Joey is but another chance the author gives to his character to show his heroic merits. Vincente is the leader of the New York City mafia. He comes to spend his vacations with his illegitimate son and decides to employ a ghostwriter to write his autobiography. In an attempt to polish his image in front of his father, Joey set to find a ghostwriter for his father. Artie Magnus, a newspaper editor was tasked with the job of writing the book. However, the reappearance of Gino, the troublemaker in the Florida Keys will give the events a totally different turn, and Artie will find himself chased by the FBI.
Sunburn was met with some harsh criticism. Shames was accused of failing to keep the same writing standards and plotting techniques as his first novel. Some newspapers reviews maintain that the novel has neither the richness of word nor the complexity of plot to make it a good novel. However, what these critics have missed to see is the centrality of this novel to the rest of the series insofar as the family background is concerned. The details Vincente reveals to his ghostwriter about his life provide substantial insight into the background of Joey. The dishonorable details revealed about the family increase the sympathy of the reader with Joey. It is at this point that the reader understands and sympathizes with Joey’s attempt to escape his past and start anew. It is as if in the novel’s background, the protagonist is Joey and not his father.
West Mysteries is certainly an entertaining series. Even if it doesn’t feature the growth of a particular character, it succeeds to maintain the reader’s attention. What the writer misses in terms of characterization he gains in terms of suspense. It is a full of fast moving events. In addition, the series appeals to our fantasies of what the world of mafia is like. It provides us with valuable insight into the life of a family who has to suffer the consequences of its connection to the mafia. The writing style is very humorous, easy to read and entertaining. It is just the type of stories you might take with you while you are vacating somewhere.

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  • Abdelfattah Ghazel

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