Book review: ‘Salt River’ by Randy Wayne White

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Doc’s pal, Tomlinson, was in a quandary. He was trying to rationalize youthful decisions and come to grips with the recently realized results. Doc was Dr. Marion Ford, a retired marine biologist who moonlighted as a clandestine secret agent for various agencies of the U.S. government. His friend, Tomlinson, is a Zen type; in fact, he’s a Zen Buddhist priest with a storied past. Just after completing his PhD, he had been recruited by Mensul Cryonics, a sperm bank that targeted upscale clientele who were seeking Thoroughbred offspring. That involvement didn’t seem wise now.

The recent easy availability of personal DNA tests had created a cadre of people seeking their “real” parents. They weren’t always happy with their sperm bank history. Tomlinson was being contacted by several of them, and as he found out, they were also contacting one another. His most reliable source of information was Delia, a young woman who had sought him out in person. She had taken her sailboat within a short distance of where Tomlinson lived and where he was visiting Doc nearby. That’s how she had made Doc’s acquaintance and eventually Tomlinson’s.

Delia had been in contact with the other siblings, at least six of them. She was aware that one of them talked crazy, and that was part of her worry. Was the crazy behavior a result of her father’s DNA? The inability of offspring to get reliable information about their parentage was at least part of the reason that sperm banks were being disdained. A fairly large contingent of those children were taking out their frustration on sperm donors as well.

The “crazy” was a large man that called himself “Deville.” Deville showed up as Delia and Tomlinson were looking at a lodge as a potential site for an offspring reunion. Ford’s intervention kept that from getting too nasty. Delia and Tomlinson were again in danger when another “offspring” had them trapped in a building with the intent of burning them alive as a means of punishing the sperm donor. This time it was clear that Ford had actually saved their lives. Even though Ford was much older than her, Delia decided he was her guardian angel and developed a romantic crush on him.

There is a subplot, as Doc Ford has a love interest in Hannah Smith, a noted fishing guide and the woman with whom he had a child. While the relationship was supposedly for that purpose, Ford hoped for more. At her insistence, their relationship was considered open. This was partly the result of Doc’s occasional unexplained absences. If he maintained outside relationships, she should be able to. Ford couldn’t explain his clandestine absences to anyone and that was a problem. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea that Hannah might be seeing other men, though.

With Deville still out there, Delia wanted Ford to be at the reunion. Though there was no doubt of the danger Deville posed, that was likely not the only reason she wanted him there. Ford was also being hounded about some work he had done earlier regarding a hidden fortune. In the meantime, he was attempting to learn the identity of the person that Hannah was dating, dealing with Hannah’s recalcitrant mother, and often caring for his young son when Hannah had a guiding gig. Somehow this must be concluded.

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