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Sanibel Flats (Doc Ford Mystery #1)

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,731 Ratings  ·  297 Reviews

Its cool gulf breezes lured him from a life of danger. Its dark undercurrents threatened to destroy him.

After ten years of living life on the edge, it was hard for Doc Ford to get that addiction to danger out of his system. But spending each day watching the sun melt into Dinkins Bay and the moon rise over the mangrove trees, cooking dinner for his beautiful neighbor, and

Hardcover, 307 pages
Published March 28th 1990 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1990)
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Florida Mystery/Thrillers
9th out of 144 books — 75 voters
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Sandman's Florida Authors List
8th out of 128 books — 25 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 29, 2015 Colleen rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Howard White
Feb 11, 2011 Howard White rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The first of the Doc Ford mystery novels, but not necessarily the best of the, roughly, 15 Ford titles currently in print. Great summer reading (or for that matter, fall, winter, and spring, too). the novels center on the eponymous Doc Ford, marine biologist living on Dinkin's Bay (a thinly disguised Tarpon Bay) on Sanibel Island, Florida. Ford, a retired CIA operative, and a group of supporting characters including, most notably, his friend Tomlinson, spiritualist/recreational drug user ala Car ...more
Mar 09, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it
I'm embarrassed as a Parrot Head, Florida Keys lover and as someone who's read all the Travis McGee novels that it's taken me this long to start reading Randy Wayne White.

What the heck was I waiting for?

Doc Ford is a retired spook who has moved back home to Sanibel Island, Florida to start a business supplying schools with preserved sea creatures for dissection. Sounds like a decent life and Doc is enjoying until he gets a call from an old high school buddy who's son has been kidnapped by some b
Richard Katz
Jul 28, 2011 Richard Katz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am really enthusisatic about Sanibel Flats and am aleady well into my second Doc Ford adventure as I write this review. Why did no one tell me of Randy Wayne White before? A real combination of the great atmospheric writing of James Lee Burke, the high international adventure of Clive Cussler, and the humor of Carl Hiassen. What a combo! Doc White and his side kick Tomlinson are two of the most endearing fictional characters. Tomlinson, of course, evokes Hiassen's Skink, who is in a class by h ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doc-ford
The first in White's, long running "Doc Ford" series. Here is another interesting and unique character. Looking like a beach bum, helpful neighbor, with a good ear for listening... then you find out later in the book, he's not what he seemed in the beginning. Quite a bit of history/science in some fish species, but didn't overwhelm me. I'm hoping his friend and neighbor, Tomlinson, who's an 'ol stoner type dude, that just happened to study at Harvard....stays in the picture. Fun, mystery/thrille ...more
Mara Purl
Mar 08, 2011 Mara Purl rated it really liked it
Discovered Randy Wayne White (if you say his name fast, you sound like Mr. McGoo) on a recent trip to Florida. His descriptors are so original that he truly owns his location and makes it vibrate into reality. Excellent protagonist, perfectly irritating antagonist, scary plot. A lot of biological, scientific detail, too much for some, but again, he owns his subject. I listened to the excellent audio version and am signing up for the next in his series.
Kathryn Bain
Oct 21, 2012 Kathryn Bain rated it liked it
This is the second Randy Wayne White book I've read. Again, I feel he overdoes the history and biology lessons. Some people might like that, I don't.

It took until they got to the village before I really got interested in the book. I wanted to know if they got the kid out alive. That's why I gave it a 3 rating.

However, the women only showed up in this book to tell Doc Ford how attractive he was and to have sex with him. They were all very one dimentional. It seemed to be that way with the first
Cathy DuPont
Oct 26, 2011 Cathy DuPont rated it it was amazing
Happened to pick this up at used book store and it's the best $2 I've ever spent. Loved, just loved the book. When I find a writer I love, I tend to read everything they've written and this happened with RWW. Read them all (Doc Ford) and follow him like a groupie. Have also read his six books under Striker and enjoyed them as well, although they're not as 'polished' as the Doc Ford series. Doc Ford and Tomlinson are quite a pair and balance each other in a good, unique and fun way. White's descr ...more
Elissajeanne boise
Jan 14, 2010 Elissajeanne boise rated it really liked it
doc ford is my ideal man. i would want to be his woman did i not possess the certainty that i would end up dead or estranged. he's badder than bourne, sexier than dirk pitt, and as smart as pendergast. the dynamic between he and tomlinson grows richer and more bizarre with every book. these are men everyone would benefit from meeting. i know they're make believe but somewhere there exists persons after who these characters were modeled and i'd like to know them in a biblical sense. this series m ...more
Robert Cohen
Jan 18, 2016 Robert Cohen rated it it was ok
So we went to Sanibel Island and had dinner at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille. The first thing that catches the eye upon entering is a tall rotating book rack with every novel by Randy Wayne White, who also happens to own the restaurant. I had never heard of Randy Wayne White, but the books said “New York Times Bestseller” on them, so shame on me, right?

The good news is the restaurant is outstanding. I give it 5 stars.

The bad news? Sanibel Flats is long on plodding plot, long on stilted and flat
Jack Tapley
Oct 26, 2015 Jack Tapley rated it liked it
While this book can be dense at times, Randy Wayne White’s writing style is excellent. With very interesting biological knowledge and even some history, it is evident that the book was well-researched. The characterization is very in depth, and he describes Doc Ford in so much detail, while still leaving enough mystery surrounding Ford. All the characters are very unique and well characterized. The plot moved slow at the beginning of the book, but it ended up being very exciting. The reader can ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Ed rated it really liked it
#1 in the Doc Ford series.

Doc Ford quits government service in Central American Masagua and retires to the life of a marine biologist on Sanibel Island, FL. His high school friend Rafe Hollins draws him back into a life of intrigue when he tells Doc that his 8 year old son has been kidnapped by Masaguan guerillas. After Rafe is found hung, Doc and Tomlinson travel to Masagua.
Brendy Bou
Jan 28, 2014 Brendy Bou rated it really liked it
I enjoy the character development in these books. The setting is where I will perhaps spend much of my retirement days, and I'd love to meet up with a "Doc Ford" in the area! ;-) He is intelligent, loves great music, and extremely intelligent balanced with a kind heart.
I may read all of Randy Wayne White books in the future. Fun and exciting.
Aug 28, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun read. In addition to the adventures with the unscrupulous business men and central American revolutionary gorillas, I enjoyed the marine biology references, description of the tropical jungles, and life on the fringes on Florida.
I am looking forward to reading other Doc Ford stories by Randy Wayne White.
Julia DeBarrioz
Dec 19, 2014 Julia DeBarrioz rated it really liked it
Shelves: latino, maya, mystery, florida
I really enjoyed this book, it was pretty much a dream line-up of plot elements: a secret agent (even if retired), south florida, central america, mayan history, revolutionaries, marine biology, and even a little painting.

I found it to be well written, and the twist at the end surprised me, which these days doesn't happen often. Doc Ford is a likeable character, super smart, funny, interesting, and the descriptions of Sanibel and sea life are wonderful. A++!

*On a side note, which has nothing to
Sep 27, 2009 Phair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I happened across Doc Ford around the time Dick Francis announced his retirement from writing (c2000). Randy Wayne White seemed to have the "Dick Francis feel" to his books- the decent, stoically suffering hero and the way of presenting interesting information about various topics within a cracking good story. Can't now recall the first one I read but I immediately went back to #1 and caught up fast!

In 2005 I suggested Sanibel for a f2f mystery discussion group. It held up well as a re-read fo
Dennis D.
Jun 27, 2010 Dennis D. rated it liked it
I’ve had this book, or this series rather, on my list of things to read for so long, I don’t even remember who recommended it to me. It’s been on my list since before I even kept an actual list. My wife used to tease me about my Spreadsheet of Suggested Reading (no, it wasn’t really called that. I’m not that OCD), back in the days before GoodReads.

I was in the mood for a mystery/thriller, and wanted to check out something new. This book is the first in a series featuring author Randy Wayne Whit
Jim A
Oct 07, 2013 Jim A rated it really liked it
It’s been quite a few years since I originally read this novel. I had become bored with the Doc Ford of the most recent novels and I decided to go back to White’s first Doc Ford novel to see if what drew me to the series in the first place was still valid. The answer was a resounding YES. An action thriller that portrays the protagonist as an everyday, workaday, person with special skills.

I miss White intertwining Ford’s occupation as a marine biologist with his occasional forays into adventure
Susan Coster
Mar 13, 2015 Susan Coster rated it it was ok
First of all, a big shout out to Sherri for the book! This was my first Randy Wayne White novel. I have been visiting Sanibel since the 1970's, so I naturally thought there would be more SANIBEL in the book, thus the title. However, most of the action takes place in Central America. Doc Ford is the main character, a marine biologist who does a bit of reconnaissance work on the side or as necessary, but his roots always take him back to his Sanibel home, where he lives the simple life......Ahhhhh ...more
Sep 24, 2015 Jay rated it it was amazing
this is the first book from Randy Wayne White and the first one I have read. it was better than I expected. I liked the writing style and I enjoyed all the plot twists. I am look on forward to reading more in the series.
Jan 27, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is a real fun novel with a lot to offer. What starts off as somewhat of a mystery novel soon turns into an action/thriller type of novel. There are some great characters in this one also. Doc Ford the main character is introduced to the reader and develops as the novel progresses into quite a bit more than the reader is shown at the beginning. There is one character, Tomlinson, that is Ford's neighbor, that I hope to see more of in the other novels in the series. Tomlinson is a stoner from ...more
Laura Burns
Sep 24, 2015 Laura Burns rated it really liked it
Wow - well plotted, stuffed with facts, a great read. This is the first in a long series. I look forward to reading more from this author!
Sep 15, 2012 Kerri rated it did not like it
This series was highly recommended to me by a friend (male). I was really excited to read it because it is about Sanibel Island, a place near and dear to my heart.

I did like that it talked about the real restaurants/roads/landmarks from the island in the book. And the story line was ok, but this author went way into detail about fishing and science and 'guy stuff' that made it really boring to me. I never really got into it and needless to say never read any more of the series.
We first meet Doc Ford, in this first book of Randy Wayne White’s eponymously named series, as he emerges naked, but for his Nikes, from an underground tunnel across from the Presidential Palace in Masagua, Central America. Doc is only a few steps ahead of palace security, which has chased him from the bedroom of the President’s wife. However, their tryst was no mere dalliance. In fact, it was only the first in a five-year relationship that had slowly changed past friendship into love.

And it was
Greg Frederick
Aug 10, 2015 Greg Frederick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a twister! I was not only pleased with the intelligence of the protagonist and how he tended to make the story zig when I expected it to zag, but even at the very end when I expected everything to wrap up in a straight-forward manner I was picked up once again by White's literary tornado and sat down somewhere completely different. I can't praise this book enough! There were some hard to take realities in the book that almost caused me to drop the rating to a four, but in the end couldn't b ...more
Brett Bumeter
Apr 05, 2016 Brett Bumeter rated it really liked it
Traveled to PineIsland off the coast of Ft Meyers, Florida. Sanibel island is just across from Pine Island. On our way down we stayed at an AirBnB in Savannah and met a couple that had just come back from the same place. They recommended Randy Wayne White and described his past and connections to the area. I downloaded a copy of this book through my Scribd subscription and started listening to get a local feel for the place.

The voice version was a little difficult to listen to in the car, high q
Sep 13, 2012 Lloyd added it
One of the better books of this series. Sanibel Flats has a depth that shows the time the author puts into the work that sadly visibly slips in some of the later titles of the Doc Ford series.
This, Shark River, Tampa Burn, the Man Who Sold Florida, all of the early stuff are great, and really show that White knows his subject and area.
Randy Wayne White had been a fishing guide along the Florida west coast and it shows!
Chris Bauer
Apr 20, 2014 Chris Bauer rated it it was amazing
For this past Spring Break vacation I took the family to Sanibel Island, Florida to get away from the horrific Midwest winter. The trip was nice, the island was beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves. One of the restaurants we visited was "Doc Ford's" on the island. The name was familiar to me and I learned that the owner of the place is none other than Randy Wayne White, author of the Doc Ford series. Duh!

I read one of his books in the past and remember liking it, but it was a casual pickup in airp
Jul 06, 2015 Caitlin rated it liked it
Recommended to Caitlin by: mom
Shelves: mystery-series
"Doc" Ford is a marine biologist, and also some other secret stuff. He thinks he's put the secret stuff behind him when a friend from high school calls in a panic and tells him that he's gotten into some bad stuff and his son is now missing. When Doc arrives at the meeting, he finds a body--his friend's body, by the ID. But the corpse gets processed much more quickly than it should, and after the funeral, with a lot of suspicions about the leadership of the town, Doc takes his hippie friend Toml ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
This book took me forever to finish and that makes it hard to write a review because the beginning seems too faraway. I saw the author speak a few weeks ago and he was an engaging speaker with endearing anecdotes to share. So I am going to cut this book some slack because this was his first in a long successful series. Doc Ford is the man who drives this story. He is a man's man in tune with the rugged underbelly of the sea, former secret operative, and he has a arduous love life. To talk about ...more
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aka Carl Ramm, Randy Striker

Randy Wayne White (born 1950) is an American writer of crime fiction and non-fiction adventure tales. He has written best-selling novels and has received awards for his fiction and a television documentary. He is best known for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, a marine biologist living on the Gulf Coast of southern Florida. White has
More about Randy Wayne White...

Other Books in the Series

Doc Ford Mystery (1 - 10 of 23 books)
  • The Heat Islands (Doc Ford, #2)
  • The Man Who Invented Florida (Doc Ford Mystery, #3)
  • Captiva (Doc Ford Mystery, #4)
  • North of Havana (Doc Ford Mystery, #5)
  • The Mangrove Coast (Doc Ford Mystery, #6)
  • Ten Thousand Islands
  • Shark River
  • Twelve Mile Limit
  • Everglades (Doc Ford Mystery, #10)
  • Tampa Burn (Doc Ford Mystery, #11)

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