Two Serge A. Storms books in three months?! Is that too much of a good thing? No. There is actually no such thing as too much of a good thing, and for Tim Dorsey to follow WHEN ELVES ATTACK with PINEAPPLE GRENADE is Exhibit A for that proposition. While this may not be the best of Dorsey’s chronicle of Florida’s most inventive serial killer, it contains some of his best writing, hands down. Yes, I know, it’s complicated. I’ll write now and explain later. Maybe.
"PINEAPPLE GRENADE features all of the elements that we love and expect in a Storms novel: manic dialogue, surreal vignettes...fascinating Florida trivia, and murders by the dozen."
PINEAPPLE GRENADE is Dorsey dipping his toe into the ocean of the espionage thriller genre. Is it a satire? Sure. Does it work? Sometimes. As has occasionally happened in some of the other installments of this series, Dorsey gets carried away with the sounds of the voices in his head. So it is that at one extremely complicated point in the book, I totally lost track of the plot. Check that: I lost track of part of the plot.
Serge, instead of killing people, gets involved in attempting to protect the president of a Latin American democracy who appears to be the target of an assassination that is to take place during the Meeting of the Americas conference in Miami. Serge and his sidekick, the eternally soused Coleman, are on a mission to make the town safe for innocent visitors of all stripes and continues to be extremely adept at coming up with new, original, and yes, painful ways of executing carjackers, wife beaters and the like who happen to cross his path. Serge also falls in love (or something like it) with a sultry lass named Felicia, who wants to keep the president of her beloved country alive. With Serge on her side, the bad guys wouldn’t seem to stand a chance, but they do.
The problem with PINEAPPLE GRENADE is that Dorsey becomes so fixated on establishing the alleged ineptitude of the CIA that it threatens to derail the book. Not to worry, though. Just keep plowing through, even when things get a little rough. There are plenty of Serge’s trademark trivia drops, one of which involves a strip club with a flying saucer mounted on the roof and another in which he mentions my all-time favorite episode of the immortal “Miami Vice” (the television series, not the feature film). So aside from some rough sledding (or should we call that water-skiing?) through the plot, PINEAPPLE GRENADE features all of the elements that we love and expect in a Storms novel: manic dialogue, surreal vignettes (wait until you read what occurs at the Diplomats’ Ball), fascinating Florida trivia, and murders by the dozen.
But wait, there’s more! What will really knock you back here is Dorsey’s demonstration of literary derring-do where not once, but twice, he sets the clock ticking and actually puts his readers on the edge of their collective seats. Keep in mind that the Storms series feeds off of a comfortably familiar but always hilarious template. We don’t really expect to be surprised by the end result; it’s how Serge gets there that provides the entertainment. There’s a bit of a change-up or two here, where Dorsey stretches his previously demonstrated talents in another direction and kicks posterior. I will tell you that if he wanted to write straight spy/thriller fiction under a pseudonym, he could probably do it if he felt like reigning himself in just a bit, plot-wise.
Dorsey may be known as a brilliant humorist, but there is a depth to his talent that has yet to be fully explored. We get a hint of it in PINEAPPLE GRENADE. Get through the convoluted plot, and you will be more than amply rewarded.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 2, 2012