Thriller Review  

Dog Island
By Mike Stewart
G.P Putnam’s Sons. New York.
ISBN: 03-99-14645-8

 

Like his first novel, Sins of the Brother, Mike Stewart’s second suspenseful thriller stars Mobile attorney Tom McInnes, a likable, well-intentioned young man who spends far too much time running back and forth along the Gulf coast in his automobile. 

With a tightly woven plot that builds in intensity, Dog Island co-stars the lovely Susan Fitzsimmons, whom we met in the first novel when her artist husband was murdered. Now living on St. George Island off the coast of the Florida panhandle near Appalachicola, Susan is harboring her young friend, Carli, a girl who turns out to be a runaway from Massachusetts, who has seen a murder take place. 

When Susan beckons, Tom comes running. He leaves behind paying clients to answer her call. In Tom’s heart of hearts, he believes he owes Susan. In a way, he reflects guilt concerning her husband’s death, which happened in “Brother” while Tom was trying to clean up a mess started by his own narcotics-dealing brother.

While 15-year-old Carli is not the most engaging character, the reader soon sympathizes with her when the massive opposition is revealed. Mike Stewart lets us see the antagonists quickly, first in the person of Deputy Mickey Burns, a dunce hiding behind Marine Corps tattoos. Then Tom McInnes encounters a number of menacing bad guys, each of whom is carefully delineated by the author with quick apt phrases. With McInnes during much of the action is his sidekick-investigator Joey, a six-foot six-inch two-hundred-and-fifty-pound former shore patrolman, former Navy Intelligence officer, former Alabama state trooper and former Alabama Bureau of Investigation agent. In the wings is Joey’s friend, Loutie Blue, a salty-talking ex-stripper with a lot of pizzazz.

From the beginning, our good guys have their hands full. Buried in the swamps of northwest Florida and on the barrier islands, St. George and Dog, they find not only a nest of drug-smuggling but some illegal immigrant activity as well -- not to mention some other unsundry illegal goings on. As the action unfolds, it wheels off with a quickness that is sure and steady.  The relationships between the gangs and individuals are revealed through the events -- including a boat trip by an old-time shrimper from Eastpoint to the south side of Dog Island where our hero can watch the activities from a distance and a final quick trip up through the coastal region of rural Alabama.

Amid all the action, seesawing back and forth along the coast from Alabama’s Eastern Shore to Dog Island, McInnis and the lovely Susan find time for some amorous feelings to surface and quicken the pulse of the pretty people.

Stewart writes in a clear focused fashion. He has quickly become Alabama’s answer to Robert Parker, and Tom McInnis is just as good at his game as Spenser.

 

Wayne Greenhaw
Southern Scribe Reviews