Thorn is well named--he's a prickly fellow who'd rather be alone than with others, rather be in nature than in any city. A South Floridian, he usually hangs out by the water, the more hot and humid the better. He makes his living however he can, taking tourists out on his boat, hand-tying fishing flies, often landing odd jobs that take him into even odder situations requiring both his considerable strength and brains. These are the things Thorn has been doing for the 20 years James W. Hall has been writing about him, and in Hell's Bay he's true to form, only maybe more so: More prickly, more solitary, and more in trouble than ever.
Hell's Bay will inevitably become known as the book in which Thorn's full name is revealed, along with the truth about his biological family the Bates, who ask their long-lost family member Thorn for help in solving their matriarch's Abigail Bates' murder. But for this reader it will also be remembered as Hall's most gripping and relevant story to date. From the moment the killer's motivation is first evidenced on page 16, I was hooked.
James W. Hall just keeps getting better with time. His characters wear not just white hats and black hats, but gray as well, and the moral dilemmas here are excruciating. When Colin Dexter revealed Morse's other name, it was the Inspector's last book. Let's hope Thorn doesn't follow suit, because I'd miss the prickly guy.