Lutz, John

Fred Carver
Tropical Heat
Tropical Heat (1986)
From Publishers Weekly
Set in Florida, the new world capital for mysteries it seems, this is a taut, suspenseful private-eye novel by the author of the well-received Nightlines. With a tone and style reminiscent of Elmore Leonard, the plot concerns Fred Carver, an ex-cop disabled by a hold-up man's bullet, who has turned to private investigating. When Edwina Talbott, a striking real-estate broker, asks Carver to investigate the suspected suicide of her lover, Willis Davis, Carver finds himself as interested in his client as he is in the case. Soon, Carver is stalked by a group of violent Cuban "Marielitos," and it becomes apparent that the missing Davis is involved in something criminal. When a drug enforcement agent enters the picture, the signs point to drugs, but Lutz uses some neat twists to avoid the obvious. There is plenty of action and good local scenery in this absorbing tale of intrigue.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Scorcher
Scorcher (1987)
From Library Journal
Someone is going around Orlando, Florida incinerating people with a homemade flame thrower. Drawn into the affair by personal tragedy, Carver, ex-cop turned private eye, begins checking into the killings and soon learns that all evidence points to Paul Kave, the son of a very wealthy and influential man. Scorcher is a well- written, meticulously constructed, gripping tale and a worthy successor to Tropical Heat (1986), in which Carver made his first appearance. JV
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Kiss
Kiss (1988)

Flame
Flame (1990)
Private detective Fred Carver becomes embroiled in another strange case. A new client in an unusual situation leaves Carver's office and gets into his car. The car explodes upon ignition and only a charred corpse remains. Identify questions develop and Carver's case turns into murder.

Bloodfire
Bloodfire (1991)
From Publishers Weekly
Series hero PI Fred Carver guards a client's heroin-addict wife in this quick and jaunty read. At first, Robert Ghostly seems sincerely worried about Elizabeth, but Carver develops doubts after he is nearly hit by a bullet that kills Elizabeth's sister. Then he learns that his client, who is really Roberto Gomez, one of Florida's most brutal drug dealers, blames the stillbirth of a son on his wife's habit. Roberto wants revenge, but Carver wants out--until beautiful Elizabeth turns up and begs him to help her. After discovering that she was never an addict and that her son is alive, Carver altruistically agrees. Together they drive to a motel in the wilds of Florida, where Elizabeth, who is black, infuriates a pair of rednecks who then add to their problems. Fortunately for Carver and Elizabeth, Roberto is being followed by a cop. While failing to build up much suspense, Lutz ( Flame ) supplies a credible twist at the end of this absorbing tale.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Hot
Hot (1992)
From Publishers Weekly
In this latest Fred Carver mystery, Lutz ( Kiss ; Tropical Heat ) sets his aging knight errant from Orlando, Fla., against younger villains on the nowhere fringes of the Florida Keys. Crusty old Henry Tiller--an ex-cop from Milwaukee living on tiny Key Montaigne--suspects that his wealthy retired neighbor, Walter Rainer, is a drug dealer responsible for the death of a 13-year-old runaway. Brushed off by local cops, Tiller hires Carver to investigate. Carver knows more is involved than just an old man's active imagination when Tiller is hit by a car; later, his own car is followed to Key Montaigne and he receives a death threat. After Tiller dies from his injuries, Carver brings in his live-in lover Beth, ex-wife of a drug kingpin and a martial arts expert. Obsessed with nailing Rainer, Carver and Beth ignore warnings to keep constant watch on the Rainer household. While Lutz creates terrific characters in this concise, crisply told escapade, the surveillance of the bad guys drones on, and when the true nature of Rainer's criminal activity is unmasked, the payoff doesn't seem to warrant the buildup. Despite these lapses, Carver remains one of the genre's most credible protagonists.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Spark (1993)
From Publishers Weekly
Noir is a fitting descriptive for Edgar-winning Lutz's latest Fred Carver mystery (after Hot ), even though the middle-aged PI with a bum knee plies his trade on the sun-drenched west coast of Florida. After retiree Jerome Evans dies unexpectedly, apparently from a heart attack, his flinty widow, Hattie, receives a note suggesting that her husband was murdered, and hires Carver to investigate. While poking around the total-care retirement village of Solartown, Carver learns that Hattie's next-door neighbor is smitten with her, that the deceased had been fooling around with the widow Crane and that Jerome's coronary was verified by the village's medical center. After finding Maude Crane's body, apparently a suicide, the PI is warned off the case with a vicious beating from a steroid-using, alcoholic sadist named Adam Beed. Wary but undeterred, Carver uncovers connections that link Beed, the medical center and a drug company, grasping the details of their chilling experiment only when he and Hattie are in Beed's nasty clutches. Although the ending is a bit abrupt, the story is highly satisfying, powered mainly by the bleak, consistent outlook of its hero, who observes that if he changed his occupation, "he'd miss the job but not the people."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Torch
Torch (1994)
From Booklist
In the Florida of crime fiction, only the thinnest of lines separates the everyday civilized world from a subterranean sickness oozing near the surface like sewage in an untended sinkhole. The function of the Florida private eye is to stand guard between these worlds, a hard-boiled catcher in the rye keeping as many innocents as possible from slipping into the slime. Lutz's Fred Carver performs that function as well as anyone since Travis McGee, and Carver's Florida is way more bent than McGee's ever was. In his eighth adventure, the somewhat mellowed Carver--thank his no-nonsense lover, black journalist Beth, for that--takes on the peculiar case of a married woman who wants him to follow her and her lover. Soon the woman, her husband, and her lover are all dead, and Carver is losing the battle of the slime three to zip. That's not the final score, of course, but even when Carver wins a few, there's always a sense of loss, of order giving a bit more ground to chaos. Call it a moral defeat: Florida is full of them, and Lutz makes us feel their sting. Bill Ott


Burn (1995)
From Booklist
Florida private eye Fred Carver thinks his new client, Joel Brandt, looks like Ted Bundy, the late serial killer. Furthermore, Carver has trouble buying Brandt's claim that he has never even met the woman, Marla Cloy, who has accused Brandt of stalking her. Building contractor Brandt is a recent widower whose life is consumed by grief and work. Carver reluctantly takes the case, trusting the instincts of the retired cop who referred Brandt to him. Finding nothing in Marla's life that would explain her behavior, Carver investigates Brandt and the circumstances of his wife's recent death. As the detective slowly begins to understand the psychological underpinnings of this peculiar case, he finds his own life threatened. A secondary but well-integrated subplot concerns the unexpected pregnancy of Carver's young lover, Beth. Both have their reasons for eschewing parenthood, but neither is completely convinced they are good reasons. This ninth Carver mystery, in which the motive isn't greed or passion but rather grief and loss, is one of the best in a fine series. Wes Lukowsky
Lightning
Lightning (1996)
From Booklist
This time out, crime strikes very close to private detective Fred Carver's home. His significant other, journalist Beth Jackson, is pregnant with their child. Carver is delighted when she changes her mind about having an abortion--until she goes to the clinic to cancel her appointment. As she enters, a bomb explodes, killing two clinic workers. Beth loses the baby. Local police and the FBI very quickly arrest a likely suspect, but driven by loss and anger, Carver begins to investigate other possibilities. His primary target is Operation Alive, a militant church-based group of anti-abortion demonstrators, but as he pursues his case, events point Carver toward a different motive for the bombing. Lutz is a reliable creator of mysteries, and Carver, a middle-aged former cop who has been pensioned after losing the use of one leg to the gun of a teenaged convenience-store robber, is an engaging hero. Here Carver's almost inchoate ruminations about the fanaticism of anti-abortion zealots are especially well done, and fans of the balding, disabled detective won't be disappointed. Thomas Gaughan



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