Key West Books

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Key West is a series of novels that people often refer to as beach fiction. They take place in Key West, Florida. There Laurence Shames’ characters spend their days living largely laid-back lives even as external forces arise to threaten their peace.

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Order of Key West Mysteries Series

# Read Title Published Details
1 Florida Straits ( By: Laurence Shames) 1992 Description / Buy
2 Scavenger Reef ( By: Laurence Shames) 1994 Description / Buy
3 Sunburn ( By: Laurence Shames) 1995 Description / Buy
4 Tropical Depression ( By: Laurence Shames) 1996 Description / Buy
5 Virgin Heat ( By: Laurence Shames) 1997 Description / Buy
6 Mangrove Squeeze ( By: Laurence Shames) 1998 Description / Buy
7 Welcome to Paradise (By: Laurence Shames) 1999 Description / Buy
8 The Naked Detective (By: Laurence Shames) 2000 Description / Buy
9 Shot on Location (By: Laurence Shames) 2013 Description / Buy
10 Chickens (Short Story) ( By: Laurence Shames) 2014 Description / Buy
11 Tropical Swap ( By: Laurence Shames) 2014 Description / Buy
12 Key West Luck ( By: Laurence Shames) 2015 Description / Buy
13 One Strange Date ( By: Laurence Shames) 2017 Description / Buy
14 One Big Joke ( By: Laurence Shames) 2017 Description / Buy
15 Nacho Unleashed ( By: Laurence Shames) 2019 Description / Buy
16 The Paradise Gig (By: Laurence Shames) 2020 Description / Buy
17 Key West Normal (By: Laurence Shames) 2021 Description / Buy
18 Relative Humidity (By: Laurence Shames) 2023 Description / Buy
19 Sunset Bluff (By: Laurence Shames) 2024 Description / Buy
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Laurence Shames, the author, worked as a taxi driver, a furniture mover, a shoe salesman, and a dishwasher before finding success as a published author.

Shames’ desire to write was sparked when he went to an Italian beach in the summer of 1970 and met a seemingly successful man with a beautiful woman on his arm who revealed to Shames that he was a writer.

In the years that followed, Shames made a name for himself writing fiction and non-fiction.

His Key West series began with Florida Straits. The first novel in the series, Florida Straits introduces readers to Joey Goldman; the illegitimate son of a New York Mafia boss, Joey is forced to flee to Key West in an effort to build his own criminal empire away from the shadow of his father and half-brother.

Joey means well and there is some merit to the grandiose plans that occupy his mind. However, nothing ever seems to go his way. And every time it looks like his luck might be changing, a new variable enters the mix, a character that doesn’t wish Joey well, an event that completely upends his best-laid plans, not to mention Joey’s own poor judgment.

Most people strongly associate the Key West novels with Joey Goldman because he makes multiple appearances in the series. However, Joey is not the primary protagonist of these Laurence Shames novels.

For instance, Scavenger Reef, the sequel to Florida Straits, is Augie Silver’s story. Augie is an amateur artist whose presumed death immediately augments the value of his artwork. So when he suddenly returns from the dead, some of his friends begin conniving to kill him.

Joey Goldman doesn’t return to the board until Sunburn, the third Key West novel. But by book four, another protagonist—Murray Zemelman—has taken the spotlight.

Because of the ever-changing protagonists, most of the Key West novels can be read as standalones, though some of the sequels make references to events in previous novels.

The various Key West novels are primarily connected by their location. Most of them are also fronted by bumbling losers for protagonists, lovable heroes with poor luck who are surrounded by a litany of quirky characters.

The Key West series is often praised for Laurence Shames’ highly descriptive style which succeeds in thoroughly immersing its readers in the clean air and sunny landscape of Key West.

Though, there are readers who think that Shames gets so caught up in providing lengthy descriptions of characters and environments that his stories lag.

Best Key West Books

The Key West novels are best known for their impressive combination of dark humor and drama, with some of the best titles in the series including:

Sunburn: Joey Goldman left New York to escape the shadow of his illegitimate father, a New York Mafia Don. But now Joey’s father is in Key West, and he wants to write a memoir detailing his life.

Joey thinks this is a great idea and he readily offers his help in getting his father a Key West reporter. However, the don’s colleagues and peers in the Mafia are not quite as enthusiastic about the development, and it looks like they might take drastic measures to stop him.

Mangrove Squeeze
Aaron Katz left his day job to restore a rotting guest house in Key West. Suki Sperakis was making ends meet by peddling ad space for a tiny paper. Then she stumbled into a plot involving a Russian man and plutonium and she decided to flee.

When Suki and Aaron collide, neither of them knows that death is about to rain upon their island paradise.

Other Book Series You May Like

Another good Key West themed series is “The Road to Key West” Series by Michael Reisig. Kansas Stamps and Will Bell go to the Florida Keys in the hopes of becoming commercial divers. But they cannot seem to steer clear of trouble. From voodoo bokors to drug smugglers and treasure maps, Stamps and Bell keep stumbling from one misadventure to another.

The “Paradise” Series by Deborah Brown is another good read. Madison Westin’s life was already complicated. Things only got worse when she inherited her aunt’s motel in the Florida Keys. Now she has a slew of colorful tenant that make her life ever so interesting.

What Is The Next Book in The Key West Mysteries Series?

There doesn't seem to be an upcoming book in The Key West Mysteries Series. The newest book is Sunset Bluff and was released on February, 2nd 2024.

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