Authentic Key West
For those who have known Key West, or think they know, this is a book that takes
the reader past the strip clubs and bars of Duval Street and the beaches to another side of the island that the tourists on
the Conch Train are only allowed a glimpse of. Based on the factual fight over Houseboat Row several years ago, it is a story
of people on the edges coming together and standing up to fight for the spirit of their island and a larger concept of home.
I loved the unconventional family of the unlikely heroine, Mercy Kaine, a middle
aged white woman who has adopted two black children, one with special needs, and pulled up roots to live on a houseboat in
Key West. With Mercy and her kids, we encounter the vivid, slice-of-life characters of Houseboat Row - strippers, boat captains,
and addicts - and while they are often entertaining in showing the quirky rituals of life on the water, it is never done in
a condescending or sentimental way. Their lives are nicely contrasted with the villainous lawyers, politicians, and real estate
moguls that want to take their homes.
As murder mysteries go, the book has an understated literary sensibility that works
wonderfully to bring the place and the people to life and, though the author takes risks and challenges expectations at every
turn of the plot, she remains true to the more satisfying aspects of the genre. It is a tough and uncompromising look at Key
West, complete with drugs, sex, and murder, and definitely not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a conventional
thriller. The ending presents hard questions of justice and retribution that will stay with you long after you put it down.
Loved this book - highly recommended.