The first Thorn mystery from Edgar Award–winning author James W. Hall: a story of revenge in the Florida Keys that “starts good and stays good, right to the end” (Chicago Tribune).

Thorn’s parents died the day he was born, run off the road by a drunk driver on their way back from the hospital. The baby lived, the offender beat the rap, and both went on with their lives—until nineteen years later, when Thorn took revenge, hunting down his parents’ killer and taking his life in a vain attempt to bring back those who had been lost. Two decades later, Thorn remains scarred by his crime. He lives in Key West, selling fishing flies and keeping an eye on Kate Truman, the woman who adopted him. But now he has lost her, too, to a pair of brutal murderers whom the police have no hope of tracking down. Thorn knows the Keys, and he will find them—but before he can take revenge, he must confront the horror of the first time he killed.

The first in the series featuring Thorn, who “may remind you of John D. MacDonald’s immortal Travis McGee . . . or perhaps Lee Child’s Jack Reacher” (TheWashington Post Book World), this intense thriller is filled with both danger and emotional depth. Elmore Leonard has called James W. Hall’s debut novel “a beauty.”


It starts good and stays good, right to the end. — Chicago Tribune

This book is a beauty. . . . The plot, the action, the marvelous sense of place, are enough to keep anyone reading. — Elmore Leonard

Setting his suspense story in the Florida Keys, Hall, who is also a poet, makes place and climate as important as character in building the powerful effect of this accomplished novel. As he weaves themes of revenge and passion, loss and attachment, he fashions a mystery that in lesser hands could be contrived but here takes shape with the inevitability of truth. Thorn was an infant when his parents died in a senseless car crash; he was 19 when he killed the man who, as a reckless teenager, caused their deaths. In the 20 years since that act, he has lived in a shack on Key Largo, tying bonefish flies for a living and trying to come to terms with his guilt. Then he meets Sarah Ryan, a young prosecuting attorney, and she begins to draw him out, involving him in the fight against uncontrolled development of the Keys that she wages with Kate, Thorn’s foster mother. When Kate is found murdered on her charter fishing boat, Thorn leaves his cave for good. A progressively crazy hired killer and a complicated land acquisition scheme, Kate’s murder and others that follow, who Sarah really is, and what secrets she and Thorn will keep or tell keep this complex story together until its dramatic, satisfying resolution. Throughout, Hall’s characters, people of heart and soul with real-life combinations of strengths and flaws, are so sharply evoked as to be almost physically present; the sex scenes, graphic and strong and often lovely, are particularly effective. — Publisher’s Weekly

Buy Under Cover of Daylight

James on writing Under Cover of Daylight