The town is populated by some definite hero types: Andy the young veteran just returned from Afghanistan and haunted by PTSD who now is the sole department of public works employee; Autumn, the young PhD in biology who is investigating/researching the animal and reptile behavior in the Everglades (and obvious romantic interest for Andy); Andy’s mom Dolly who is struggling with dementia and living in an assisted living facility; and Walter Connell (his Indian name is Walking Bear) - another resident of the assisted living facility who has made spiritual connections with certain animals who indicate that something is terribly wrong…
Black Magic by Russell James is a lot of fun, and the story moves quickly. The hurricane description and passages are deftly written. Alligator and python attacks (especially the latter) are pretty creative. At times, however, the special effects fall apart. There is an attack by mosquitos when our heroes enter Lyle’s Magic Shop which is pretty lame – and for some reason one of the characters drops his gun while in the shop and will not go back to retrieve it even though it is just a few yards away. Then there is an attack by a group of carnivorous bunny rabbits which, well, left me shaking my head.
Overall, the book was enjoyable. However, there were periodic lapses of internal consistency – the latter of which is needed for the suspension of disbelief in horror. For instance, Lyle (and why name him “Lyle”) is not convincing as an evil sorcerer. At times he comes across like a cartoon character. And, why does Lyle, who can create hurricanes and turn all of the beasts of the Everglades into organized packs of ravenous monsters, need a group of 13 year-olds to facilitate his evil deeds? The same question holds for the mean old guy and the drug dealer – and these two are practically worthless when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Then there are the two residents of the assisted living facility whose dementia comes and goes for the convenience of the plot.
Nonetheless, this is a decent 3-star work. Mr. James’ dialogue and pacing are fine, and the read is as breezy as a day on a Florida beach.