Pull up a beach chair and enjoy

A debut thriller goes on a satisfying romp through Miami.

Published June 10, 2007

Straits of Fortune

By Anthony Gagliano

William Morrow, 240 pages, $23.95


One phone call - that's all it takes for the listless tailspin of Jack Vaughn's life to evolve into a suicidal nosedive in Anthony Gagliano's Straits of Fortune.

It started with a drug bust gone bad. Soon after, the former Manhattan cop traded skyscrapers, pavement and a wife for Miami's palm trees, drop-dead heat and a wealthy lover. Unfortunately, his current job as a personal trainer to the rich doesn't quite line his pockets with the means to succeed.

Which brings us back to that phone call. Just this one favor, Jack's former employer commands with the "I-don't-take-orders" resolve of a war veteran.

There's a body on a boat, and the Colonel's only daughter Jack's most current ex-flame pulled the trigger. Jack's marching orders are "Make it disappear." In return, the Colonel will donate a hundred grand to Jack's nonexistent life savings.

As Jack struggles between being a law-abiding citizen and aiding the cliched damsel in distress, Straits of Fortune winds a well-trod path through the Sunshine State's eccentricities. Drugs, porn, homosexuality, shady pharmaceutical dealings and Cuba all have supporting roles, but the reader will feel more likely to forgive these stereotypes when seeing Florida through Jack's eyes.

"It was late August . . . one of those hot, humid, interminable days when you search for a new adjective for the heat but end up with nothing for your trouble but the taste of salt at the edge of your mouth, " he says at the book's opening.

This debut novel by Gagliano, a Miami Beach resident, may lack the verbal polish and plot twists of bestselling suspense novels. But the author takes what could have been a cookie-cutter whodunit and twists the genre to craft a contemporary action-adventure novel well-suited to the summer movie blockbuster crowd.

Straits of Fortune begs to be enjoyed with a cool drink at the beach. Just don't forget the sunscreen.

Jennifer DeCamp can be reached at (727) 893-8881 or jdecamp@sptimes.com.