Political Clouds Loom Over the Sunshine State: Mercedes Wore Black

A book review of Andrea Brunais’ Mercedes Wore Black

by Malcolm R. Campbell

When the hard-hitting environmental reporter Janis Hawk is downsized out of her job at the Bradenton, Florida Mercury Sun she’s certain her newspaper career is over compliments of the powerbrokers who don’t like her news stories showing how often commerce and politics win out over Florida’s vanishing wild areas. However, when a friend steps forward to finance her as a “backpack reporter,” Janis soon discovers that the kind of people who got rid of her job might also want to get rid of her permanently.

The book includes many richly defined characters including a host of suspects that begin coming out of the piney woods after Janis’ friend Mercedes is murdered at Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee. But which of the prospective culprits is watching and threatening her: a company trying to muscle in on the state’s lottery contract, those behind a controversial dredging project, a pharmaceutical company with a secret Mercedes knew, or a tangled lobbyist following the governor’s race?

I enjoyed this smartly written political thriller set in Florida where I grew up. As a former college publications adviser from a “journalist family,” I saw immediately that former prize-winning journalist for the Tampa Tribune and Tallahassee Democrat Andrea Brunais knows the world of reporting and gets it right, especially in the domains of murder, political intrigue and the often-losing out Florida environment.

Floridians especially will enjoy this novel for it is rich in recent political history, on-going environmental issues pitting developers against the land, and places state residents know well such as Tate’s Hell Forest, Sopchoppy, Bradenton, Tallahassee and Wakulla Springs. While these strengths will endear the book to Florida readers, they could be a little too much for those in other parts of the country–could be, for the intrigue is high level and will carry readers past the heavy local color. You don’t have to be a Floridian to be lured into turning these pages.

Those of us who grew up in Florida have always known that many of the state’s political issues don’t get out into the sunshine where they belong. Mercedes Wore Black is a very entertaining novel as told from the perspective of Janis and other reporters who want to print the truth before it buries them.

BOOK TITLE: Mercedes Wore Black
AUTHOR NAME: Andrea Brunais
PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (June 14, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1940869100

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