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Black Coral


Black Coral

BLACK CORAL is Andrew Mayne’s second Underwater Investigation Unit book. While that's not exactly a snappy name for a series, it certainly describes what makes these law enforcement officers --- a small group that works to solve crimes in and around Florida waterways --- different from others whose job limits them to more terrestrial endeavors.

The star of the series is Sloan McPherson, who works for the Underwater Investigation Unit. She is a bit of an outlaw but an extremely likable one. Although they are investigating a serial killer case, Sloan remains self-deprecating about her abilities both as an investigator and as a mother raising a child with her boyfriend, Run. She is disarmingly honest about getting pregnant at 19 and still feeling unsure about how to be a good mother to her preteen daughter. Luckily, Run is a good father who is there for the girl while Sloan works nonstop. We see her work ethic and dedication, but also her poor decision making, in the book’s first scene when she dives into a pond to retrieve a body from a car crash, fights off a monster alligator, and finds a submerged van that her instincts tell her is more than it appears.

"Mayne creates a thrilling plot with likable yet flawed characters.... Fans of detective series will enjoy seeing where the next episodes take us."

After her unit gets the manpower to raise the vehicle and finds the remains of four teenagers who disappeared decades ago, Sloan has another gut feeling. She thinks there is more to the story than just some young people getting high and driving into a pond. She uncovers a trail of murders that stems from one perpetrator, a serial killer who has been doing this for decades, honing his or her “skills” over the years. Along the way, Sloan angers officials from other agencies as she almost single-handedly follows her leads to entrap a killer who has stayed hidden for decades.

Mayne does an excellent job capturing the unique landscape of the Everglades, a prairie of sawgrass, water, alligators and mangroves. The setting is Broward County, which is north of Miami and Miami Dade County, but still adjacent to the Everglades, also known as the "river of grass," which runs up much of the center of Florida and covers most of the southern tip. I can guarantee that the Florida Department of Tourism won't be using Mayne's books for public relations as he describes in disturbing detail all the dangers that roam the wilds of the Everglades --- from the aforementioned alligators (which can outrun us) to the invasive Burmese pythons and the dangerous, albeit almost extinct, Florida panther.

Serial killers, on the other hand, are not really much of a worry. It's no wonder that the depictions of everything from the setting to the criminal investigations feel authentic. Mayne grew up in South Florida, and his father was a Federal agent and avid fisherman. He spent a lot of time on the water with his dad, where he heard about all kinds of cases.

Mayne creates a thrilling plot with likable yet flawed characters. It will be interesting to see how they grow as the Underwater Investigation Unit gains respect from other law enforcement agencies and the three members of the unit become a solid team. Fans of detective series will enjoy seeing where the next episodes take us.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on March 12, 2021

Black Coral
by Andrew Mayne