RogerBW's Blog

Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen 12 March 2015

2013 Florida Weird. On Key West, former Miami cop Andrew Yancy has a human arm in his freezer. But there's a reason for that. Yancy thinks the story about the arm's owner dying in a boating accident is full of holes, and sets off on an unofficial investigation.

Carl Hiaasen more or less invented the subgenre of Florida Weird, so it's a little disappointing to read this latest entry into it; there's nothing wrong with it, exactly, but it does sometimes feel a bit like a jug of well-mixed Greatest Hits with a dash of worcester sauce.

What Hiaasen's done best has always been utterly self-absorbed characters with poor impulse control, and there are plenty of them here, from Yancy's ex-girlfriend Bonnie to the Bahamian security guard Eggs via a voodoo queen, a crooked cop, a non-grieving widow and daughter, and the titular monkey who may or may not have been in Pirates of the Caribbean. As usual for Hiaasen, they all have their own desires and goals, and when a disruptive influence is introduced they all set about trying to make use of it by whatever means seems easiest.

The typical Key West murder is a drunken altercation over debts, dope or dance partners. Premeditated robbery-homicides are rare because they require a level of planning and sober enterprise seldom encountered among the island's indolent felons.

But most of the previous books have stayed in or around Florida; this one shuffles back and forth between there and the Bahamas. That's quite close by, of course, only a few hundred miles from the Florida coast, but it feels as though it's outside Hiaasen's comfort zone, with some things too similar to the standard Floridian setting and other things too different from it. If the whole world can be like Florida, what was so special about setting stories in Florida in the first place?

There are no characters from previous books here, but Yancy isn't so very different from most of Hiaasen's other protagonists. He's messed up his life, he has inadvisable sex, he despises his neighbour who's building a huge house that blocks the view and frightens off the local wildlife. The others… well, they get heavy-handed. The asshole doctor Clifford Witt is also into autoerotic asphyxiation. The corrupt cop has a horrible harridan of a wife. (Indeed, none of the female characters comes off well here.) The bad guys come to a bad end not because of cleverness by our heroes but because they mess up. But there are still gems, like Yancy inspecting a restaurant:

"Wait a minute." Yancy walked over to the stand-up freezer and pointed with the toe of his shoe. "Is that a tail? Tell me that's not a tail."

"Goddammit," said Brennan.

Someone had slammed the freezer door on a rat.

"Least it's not alive," Lombardo observed. He was very much a glass-half-full breed of civil servant. "Come on, Andrew, have a heart."

The writing's still good, but the spark isn't quite there. There's no epilogue describing what happened to the characters, and perhaps that's part of the problem: too many of them feel as though they were wheeled on stage for just this one showing rather than having lives before and after this adventure. (Which of course they were, but they shouldn't feel that way.)

If you haven't read earlier Hiaasen, read that. If you have, read the first four or five novels by Tim Dorsey. If you've read all of that and still demand more Florida Weird, come back here; it's not bad, but it shouldn't be at the top of your list.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1