Thu
Jun 20 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Key Death by Jude Hardin

Key Death by Jude HardinKey Death by Jude Hardin is the fifth Nicholas Colt Florida-based thriller (available June 25, 2013).

So, you’re in between episodes of The Glades, you already finished the last Tim Dorsey book, and you still need a crazy-people-in-Florida fix. Jude Hardin’s latest Nicholas Colt book, Key Death, is the perfect solution.

Former guitarist, former P.I., and professional drinker, Colt goes to a concert only to find himself hired by a dying woman to find her father. Problem number one: Colt lost his investigator’s license. Problem number two: It turns out the woman’s father has been dead for two years. Murdered, to be precise. And it turns out, if she can’t meet her father, she’d like to at least see the murderer brought to justice. Problem three: The father was living—and murdered—eight hours away in Key West.

Colt’s wife doesn’t want him jaunting off to Key West to illegally investigate a murder. Colt isn’t even sure it’s a good idea. But he’s been feeling useless since his hand got busted up and ruined his guitar playing and his heroin conviction ruined his P.I. business. So, he’s determined to go and do this. Besides, who can say no to a dying woman?

I took a drink of my spiked coffee. Key West was an eight-hour drive from the nice little three-bedroom house Juliet and I bought soon after we got married. A murder investigation could take months, and I didn’t want to be separated from my wife for that long. Things had been good between us for a while, and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

Then again, we had a mortgage and a car payment and a kid in college, and it had been weeks since I’d made any money.

If Colt’s wife isn’t thrilled with his technically-illegal investigating far from home, and a week before Thanksgiving, she’s downright worried about Colt running into The Zombie, the serial killer who’s been working his (or her) way up and down the east coast and who seems to have settled in Key West for a bit.

Then again, while Colt’s no great fan of serial killers, he’s utterly phobic about zombies.

The Zombie.

I joked around sometimes, but terrifying nightmares plagued me for months after watching Time Traveling Zombie Bikers from Darkest Hell. I would wake up in a panic, wanting to run but paralyzed with fear, certain that one of those clammy fuckers was under my bed. Certain that one of them was going to crack my skull like a walnut and feast on my twelve-year-old brain.

I joked around sometimes to help relieve my own anxiety.

I still have the nightmares occasionally, and to this day I refuse to watch any movie or television show that deals with zombies. Even the ones that are supposed to be funny. I can’t watch them. They do something to me. It’s almost like my Kryptonite or something.

There’s a word for my condition. Kinemortophobia. The fear of zombies. I I looked it up one time. As phobias go, it’s a pretty ridiculous one. I know that.

Aside from serial killer zombies—and I mean, really, what Florida-based story is complete with face eaters or brain takers or serial killers—Colt’s trip to the lower Keys has everything a trip to Key West should. Smelly, questionable lodging? Check. Terrible bar guitarist? Check. Angry drunks? Check. Sunburned tourist? Check. Gun-toting lunatics? Check. Potentially killer boat outings? Check. Up close dolphin show? Check.

It was early November, and hurricane season was winding down, so I wasn’t too worried about the weather. I’d booked a room at a hotel in town, a place I’d stayed before. I went ahead and reserved it for a week. I figured I would be there at least that long. I made sure they put me on the second floor, facing the parking lot. The rooms facing the pool made me feel boxed in, and I liked being able to look out the window and watch the traffic go by.

By the time I got there and got everything settled, it was going on seven o’clock. I walked down to the lounge, bellied up to the bar, ordered an Old Fitz on the rocks. The bartender brought it and I swirled the ice with a swizzle stick and look a long satisfying pull.

There was a guy sitting on a stool on the little stage in the corner, singing and playing acoustic guitar. His name was Wesley West. I’d seen it on the sign by the hallway leading to the lounge. He was wearing dark glasses and a beret. He wasn’t very good.

In other words, it’s the sort of booze-soaked farce that Florida has made itself famous for, both in fiction and in real life.


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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).

Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.

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