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
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
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.