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Author: Walter Ramsay

Publisher: Pena Beach Press

ISBN-10: 0983440743 (PB)

ISBN-13: 978-0983440741 (E-book)

I’m in love with this protagonist, and I’m a grandmother like his Nana, whose ghost appears from time to time. I want to protect him, and that’s because he has feelings. It occurs to me that this is an advantage of narrative in the first person: the character can convincingly reveal what’s inside his heart and head when a third party cannot. Tucker Lee Anderson, a divorced sports editor who recently advanced to investigative journalism and won acclaim for the Brevard Daily, is vulnerable in so many ways. First, he has children, a teenage daughter who is dating a rich neurosurgeon’s nasty kid, and a son just learning to surfboard. His ex-wife is doing her best to loosen their ties to him. His boss will do anything for money. On the plus side, he has a new girlfriend, fantastically beautiful and conveniently the coroner. He also has a best friend on the police force who feeds him inside information.

The enemies are ugly and powerful: a senator, a judge, a colonel, and ex-military thugs. The opening paragraphs show the thugs ruthlessly killing a harmless old man living off the marshy wasteland their bosses are planning to develop. But this is no ordinary development. When two teenagers in a car with a Texas license plate are found submerged in a swamp on that land, we have a tragic news story. It becomes a crime when police discover the victims were tied and almost decapitated. There’s trouble brewing even closer to home. Tucker’s cop pal Craig is suspicious of Tucker’s friendly neighbor Doug at the marina, and finds out some things Tucker doesn’t really want to hear. Then Doug leaves a tantalizing note on Tucker’s boat.

This eerie unfolding of dissonant facts takes place in central Florida, from the Atlantic coast to just past the Interstate that gives northerners access to the beaches of the warm, peninsular state. The author has researched Florida history to build a credible foundation for the hush-hush real estate scheme, and for Tucker’s lineage. His ancestor, a Seminole Indian, was leader of the tribe that refused to leave Florida when the others were driven to reservations in the Great Plains. Tucker’s role in the present is clarified for him when his great-great-uncle Osci appears to him in a dream with an assignment and a warning. Then the reporter gets a call from a daughter in distress. And an email appears with mysterious attachments.

COASTAL ACCESS presents a tangle of family and business relationships, past and present, providing our physically and morally fit hero with mental and emotional challenges. Ramsay’s writing is taut, his chapters brief, so his plot moves relentlessly forward in a zigzag pattern, from one dark place to another. Tip for writers: I have been reading books on my Kindle for more than two years. Many are self-published works. One problem for authors formatting e-books is a glitch that runs dialogue paragraphs together so you lose sight of who is saying what. Ramsay has avoided this for the most part, whether he planned it or not, by alternating first person POV with third in short vignettes.

The reader’s only discomfort may be accepting the veracity of dreams. I suggest you go to BENEATH THE DUNE, Ramsay’s first Tucker novel, to get to know Nana and see our hero coming of age. It is the ancestral apparitions that give Tucker his unique ability to uncover wrongdoing. I found them charming, especially the grandmother. I found endearing, too, that instead of a bloodhound to help him out, Tucker has a red-eyed alligator watching his back.

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