Although he prefers magazine work, freelance photographer Alex Rutledge won't turn down an occasional crime scene shoot for the City of Key West Police Department. But when a string of murders takes his viewfinder into strangely familiar territory, Alex's mellow island lifestyle shatters. One after another, someone is killing women who have intimately crossed Alex Rutledge's path. Maybe it's a coincidence. Maybe it's a conspiracy. Or maybe he's crazy. But the connection marks Alex as the prime suspect in a case so hot it's drawn in the county sheriff, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In a desperate race to save his name and his life, Alex dives into a one-man search for the dark, sweltering truth beneath a case that's pounding toward meltdown, in The Mango Opera by Tom Corcoran.
Southern Florida keeps turning out mystery writers. Corcoran's colorful Key West debut shows that there's room for at least one more. Alex Rutledge, longtime Key West resident, earns a precarious living as a photographer whose work includes some crime-site picture taking for the police. Rutledge's laid-back routine is disrupted when estranged girlfriend Annie Minnette shows up with some hastily gathered belongings after her roommate has been found murdered. Rutledge's involvement becomes more direct when additional murders and attempted murders occur--all aimed at women who are part of his somewhat promiscuous past. Rutledge's familiarity with the victims seems to be at the center of a mystery as snarled as a mangrove clump. Untangling the twists proves dangerous and exacting as a parade of memorable characters send Rutledge on a trip down memory lane that includes flashbacks to the Cuban boatlift and dubious characters on both sides of the law. With its sure feel for the Key West that resides beneath the tourist facade and a quirky, hard-edged rhythm pulsing beneath the surface calm, this debut deserves a wide and welcoming audience.