My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Edna Buchanan sets up her novel with a lengthy summary of the life and times of John Ashley, Florida’s most infamous criminal. He and his gang, which included his paramour, Laura Upthegrove, and his brothers, are credited with murder, bank and train robberies, piracy, and bootlegging. Folk legend would hold Ashley up as a modern day Robin Hood sort of hero, and so would Edna Buchanan. Her novel, A Dark and Lonely Place, would have her readers believe the same sort of nonsense. According to her, Ashley was mistreated and misunderstood, and turned to a life of cold blooded crime as a means to support his poor self. The novel is little more than a stars-in-your-eyes romance filled with rationalization.
There is a parallel plot, in which one of John’s descendants, a 21st century detective, falls in love with a witness, Laura Grove (get it?), and falls afoul of the law he is pledged to uphold. Both Johns and Lauras suffer similar fates. Is destiny imprinted upon our DNA? Can we escape the patterns of the past? Not according to Buchanan, but never fear. There’s always a good excuse for embracing criminal activity.