September 02, 1996 12:00 PM

by James W. Hall

Known for spawning condos, golf courses and sunburns, Florida is also a fertile breeding ground for top-notch thriller writers. The late John D. MacDonald worked this turf for years, and now a new generation, including Carl Hiaasen and Hall, are fruitfully following suit.

Hall, the author of four books of verse, brings a poetic sensibility to his particular brand of Florida crime fiction. Buzz Cut sees the return of the brooding, self-reliant Thorn, a loner who happily ties bonefish flies and reluctantly untangles knots of corruption and murder.

In Buzz Cut, Thorn takes on a wonderfully creepy villain named Butler Jack, who is terrorizing a 10-story cruise ship as well as targeting an oil-laden supertanker. Jack’s weapon in hand-to-hand combat happens to be 400,000 volts of electricity. While Buzz Cut lacks the colorful imagery of Hall’s best work, its virtues include quirky humor, offbeat characters and a high-voltage story. If not quite the electrifying thriller Hall was shooting for, Buzz Cut still packs a pretty good jolt. (Delacorte, $22.95)

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