Life recently appears to out-horrify Hollywood disaster films as devastating tornadoes roam thousands of miles of the Midwest, coastal city-destroying hurricanes displace entire communities, and forest fires drive people from the mountains, not to mention the bloodshed in foreign countries. As they all play out in full color on your living room big screen, it’s time to hit the pause button and put real life on hold. My form of escape is reading. One could retreat into the pages of Walden Pond or Shakespeare’s sonnets, but laughter is my tranquilizer of choice, and Carl Hiaasen is the best dispenser of the all-healing guffaw around today.
Nobody can dish out the hilarious karma that idiots bring down upon themselves like the king of satire, Miami Herald columnist and bestselling author Carl Hiaasen. He has the advantage of living in South Florida, which, for over a century, has attracted con artists, fast-buck operators, flim-flam men, snake oil salesmen and, worst of all, developers ever since they figured out how to drain the swamps and convince people to open their wallets for their very own piece of paradise.
"Hiaasen says in a brief foreword that BAD MONKEY is a work of fiction, but 'the odious duties of a restaurant inspector are authentically rendered.' Suffice it to say that it will be a while before I can eat comfortably in any restaurant."
And so it is that BAD MONKEY came out just in time to rescue fellow fans from our gloom and doom state. Hiaasen spins outrageous tales about bad things happening to bad people who richly deserve what’s coming to them. His tongue-in-cheek yet heartfelt crusade against the massive destruction of Florida’s coastlines, swamps and wildlife has introduced us to some pretty wild characters over the years. With so little left of Florida’s once pristine coasts to despoil, he has focused his rapier wit on Andros Island in the Bahamas.
Brief synopsis: Suspended county sheriff’s detective Andrew Yancy has been demoted, over a fight with a fellow officer, to the county health department as a food inspector. He stoically takes his medicine, retreating to his modest home in the Florida Keys along a tranquil waterway. A developer buys the wooded habitat next door, then levels it and starts erecting a garish McMansion he hopes to sell to a rich snowbird. Its skeletal beginnings are already blocking Yancy’s idyllic view of the waterway, and bulldozing the meadow has driven off the few remaining endangered key deer who once grazed peacefully at sunset. The sheriff calls Yancy when a tourist snags a man’s severed arm while on a charter boat, and Yancy is ordered to deliver the arm to the coroner in Miami. The coroner and sheriff chalk it up as death by shark or boat propeller, but Yancy suspects foul play and sees it as a way to win back his badge. Bored with “roach patrol” in the health department, he quietly pursues the case.
The rest is pure Hiaasen. Yancy’s crazed schemes to scare off potential buyers of the house next door get diverted when it turns out that the developer is also mixed up in a larger scenario involving the severed arm, an escaped monkey from a Johnny Depp movie, and a scam development on Andros Island. Don’t ask; only Hiaasen could bring it all together, but he does so with his usual perfectly crafted prose and wild imagination. What must it be like to live in Carl Hiaasen’s head? That’s a frightening thought.
Hiaasen says in a brief foreword that BAD MONKEY is a work of fiction, but "the odious duties of a restaurant inspector are authentically rendered.” Suffice it to say that it will be a while before I can eat comfortably in any restaurant.
Footnote: Why Mr. Hiaasen hasn’t been named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive is beyond me, but that’s just a personal opinion. Check out the jacket flyleaf.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on June 14, 2013