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Sanibel Flats

(Doc Ford Mystery #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  5,350 ratings  ·  442 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 dispensinhim.


Hardcover, 307 pages
Published March 28th 1990 by St. Martin's Press (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,350 ratings  ·  442 reviews

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Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story starts out rather slowly, but it's interesting. Things are happening & Doc Ford is teasingly introduced. As his back story becomes more clear, so does the setting & the problem. Very well done. The excitement & everything built wonderfully. No dumps.

The characters were also great. Not just Doc, but the supporting cast. Tomlinson is a hoot & the women are very well done with more complex roles than most of the men. They're full people with flaws, agendas, &am
Mar 09, 2013 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
Apr 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
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Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, w

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 dispensing advice to the locals over a cold beer lulled him into letting his guard down.Then Rafe Hollin
Howard White
Feb 11, 2011 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
Kathryn Bain
Oct 21, 2012 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 wit
Richard Katz
Jul 28, 2011 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
Robert Cohen
Jan 18, 2016 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, l
Jan 01, 2010 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 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.
Cathy DuPont
Oct 12, 2011 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 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
Aug 28, 2012 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
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maya, florida, latino, mystery
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 ha
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This first entry in the Doc Ford series is a great lead-in to the series. You can see why it caught on.

Doc Ford quits the espionage business to go into his real business of marine biology. He retires to a marina and becomes part of the community.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy in an espionage novel.

An old friend's son is kidnapped, and Ford tracks the kid to Central America, where he gets involved with revolutionaries.

Great stuff.
Brendy Bou
Jan 28, 2014 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.
Feb 19, 2015 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.
Jay Fusco
Sep 24, 2015 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.
Carolyn (in SC) C234D
The first in the Doc Ford series, probably not the first that I read. Enjoy the series very much--the settings, the characters, the stories. Wow, I read this over 18 years ago! Time to find another one.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's just a certain type of PI book that I really, really love, and this was very much one of them. It has a talky main character who has been around enough to be cynical about most things, including himself (but not in a "oh you poor humans with your useless emotions" sort of way), describes women with a sort of distant attention while applying his cynicism to them, too, and has time to be patient about pretty much everything, even when those around him are freaking out. And, oddly, tends to ...more
Linda Rawlins
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, thriller
First in the Doc Ford series by Randy Wayne White - After a life of living on the edge, Doc Ford had moved to Dinkins Bay off of Sanibel Island and was enjoying his new life on the water. Suddenly, things change when an old friend, Rafe Hollins, shows up and asks him to return to Masagua with him to rescue his kidnapped 8 year old son. However, Ford is not allowed to return to Masagua for at least two years because of his last adventure there. Ford is willing to help and then Rafe shows up dead. ...more
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I stumbled across this series with book #24, which I enjoyed. So, I decided to start at the beginning.
It lays the foundation of the main characters in the series. I love that it is set in SW Florida and mentions towns, roads, and landmarks that I am familiar with. I look forward to reading through the series, especially when I'm homesick and need a taste of Old Florida.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hesitate to call this a mystery, although that is where it is most often shelved. It's more in the line of "hero with a problematic past, who is currently in the middle of a dangerous personal mission, and who erroneously believes this is the last time he is ever going to leave the quiet life that he claims to prefer."

It's Repairman Jack, without the supernatural element; James Bond, without the governmental oversight or quite as many women. It has depth of character and plot, as well as acti
Wendy Post
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Recommended by a couple of people, this book did not disappoint. I will definitely read another.
Mar 16, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: not-gonna-finish
Just couldn't get into it.
Dennis D.
Jun 01, 2010 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 White’s best kn
Maggie K
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Doc Ford is an ex some kind of spook who retires to southern Florida to do some collecting for biological supplies. He is meeting his neighbors, and taking it easy, with no intentions of anything when an old friend tries to get him involved in finding his kidnapped son. When this same friend is murdered, and his death covered up, Doc grudgingly starts looking into things, only to have his past catch up with him big-time.

A complex mystery, a reluc
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, audio
4.0 out of 5 - Okay, that's more like it. A solid mystery that kept my interest

After a false start with another of Mr. White's books, Black Widow, I decided to return to the start of the Doc Ford series and I'm glad I did.

Mysterious ex-CIA agent and marine biologist Doc Ford is enjoying life away his dangerous former past and lives in Sanibel Island. However, when an old friend pleads to Ford to find and rescue his son who has been kidnapped, how can he refuse? Especially when
Sep 27, 2009 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
Jack Tapley
Oct 26, 2015 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
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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 con

Other books in the series

Doc Ford Mystery (1 - 10 of 26 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 (Doc Ford Mystery #7)
  • Shark River (Doc Ford Mystery #8)
  • Twelve Mile Limit (Doc Ford, #9)
  • Everglades (Doc Ford Mystery, #10)
  • Tampa Burn (Doc Ford Mystery, #11)