Hannah Smith is thirty-one years old. A tall, strong, buxom woman with a long family history in her part of the world – The Gulf Coast of Florida. Her mother has had a stroke, so Hannah regularly spends time with her, even though they often don’t get along. They live in a fishing village across the bay from Sanibel Island. She works as a fishing guide to wealthy clients. An expert in her field, she learned from the best, her late uncle Jake. She knows her way around boat engines, and is even more familiar with the waters surrounding her home state. She captains a ‘flats skiff’, a boat that can go at incredible speeds, even in very shallow water.
One of her wealthy clients is very impressed by her performance under pressure and thinks her local knowledge will be useful in finding his niece, who hasn’t been heard from for some time. Olivia Seasons is “Gone“. An incredibly wealthy woman in her own right, her uncle Lawrence fears for her well-being.
Why employ a fishing guide to find a missing person you ask? Well, Hannah’s Uncle Jake also worked for Lawrence Seasons who had set him up with his private investigator’s license. Jake taught Hannah everything he knew… With the promise of a fee higher than she could earn in a whole season of being a fishing guide, AND, the promise of living on Lawrence Season’s Marlow Prowler for a year, Hannah takes the assignment.
With the assistance of her good friend, Nate, she begins investigation into Olivia’s disappearance. It is suspected that Olivia made the acquaintance of a rough, manipulative, male predator, who sometimes goes by the name of Ricky Meeks.
The more that Hannah learns about Olivia, the more she wants to find her. Hannah identifies with Olivia, who is near Hannah’s own age.
Hannah learns that Ricky might be holding Olivia in an area called “The Ten Thousand Islands“, a vast area known for its everglade-like terrain, it is a mangrove wilderness where lies a maze of bays, creeks, and channels in which it is all too easy to lose your way.
The intrepid Hannah follows the trail, putting herself and her boat in dire jeopardy. The suspense of Hannah’s situation keeps the reader avidly turning pages. I found her to be a likable, well-rounded character whose plight I had a vested interest in. She seemed less foolhardy than some other female protagonists I have read, and is someone I wouldn’t mind having around in an emergency.
The setting was well described, with obvious local expertise shown by the author.
In the novel, Hannah befriends a biologist named Doc Ford. Ford is a recurring character in the author’s popular series which now includes twenty-four titles! It is obvious that Hannah and Ford are attracted to one another and the reader is led to believe that they will be an ‘item‘ in future novels. As “Gone” is the first novel in the Hannah Smith series, I am guessing that it will be a ‘cross-over’ series which features Doc Ford in some respect.
An easy, page-turning read, I recommend “Gone“. It is the first novel I’ve ever read by this author and I’m intrigued to learn more about Doc Ford and Hannah.
I purchased this novel due to the fact it was chosen as the group read for the month of November by my in-person bookclub, Whodunit.
Randy Wayne White is an American writer of crime fiction and non-fiction adventure tales. He has written best-selling novels and has received awards for his fiction and a television documentary. He is best known for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, a marine biologist living on the Gulf Coast of southern Florida. White has contributed material on a variety of topics to numerous magazines and has lectured across the United States. A resident of Southwest Florida since 1972, he currently lives on Pine Island, Florida, where he is active in South Florida civic affairs and with the restaurant Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grill on nearby Sanibel Island.