Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bad Monkey - Carl Hiaasen

    2013; 315 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #14 in Hiaasen’s crime novel series.  Genre : Florida Crime Noir; Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Poor Nick Stripling has lost an arm.  But he probably isn’t too concerned, since that’s all that’s left of him after the sharks had a feeding frenzy when he fell overboard.  But some people think it might have been murder most foul.

    Andrew Yancy wants to get to the bottom of this, but strictly for the brownie points.  Once upon a time, and not too long ago, he was a detective in the Miami Police Department.  But after two demotions, he currently finds himself in the groveling position of Health Inspector.  Or, as they call it in the business, Roach Patrol.

What’s To Like...
    Bad Monkey is the latest in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida Crime Noir series of books.  “Series” may be a misnomer, since Hiaasen conjures up a new hero in almost every book.  Most of them are amoral characters, and Andrew Yancy is no exception.  He has anger management issues, and his present career demise is totally deserved.

    The rest of the characters, including the bad monkey, are hilariously fascinating.  So are the various, seemingly unrelated plotlines, which Hiaasen once again manages to deftly pull together into a satisfying, albeit somewhat rushed, climactic ending. 

    Besides the captivating crime storyline, Hiaasen turns the spotlight on a number of scams that plague Florida, including ruinous land development in Florida, abundant Medicare fraud, and duping naïve tourists into thinking they actually caught a major trophy fish.  As usual, the story isn’t a whodunit.  Instead you tag along with Yancy as he tries to figure out a way a bring the baddies to justice.  But don’t get too comfortably numb; the baddies are resourceful, and there’s a major plot twist just when you least expect it.  Hiaasen knows how to tell a story.

    “Who else did Charlie tell about the arm?”
    “Nobody but me,” Madeline said emphatically.  “Soon as he sobered up he got semi-paranoid about it.  But the money, you know, that was different.  The night after he got paid he took me to Louie’s for dinner and bought a round for everyone at the bar, two hundred bucks.”  She dragged hard and then flicked the butt into a rain puddle.  “Nobody said he was Alvin Einstein.”
     Yancy thought it was fortunate that Phinney and Madeline hadn’t pooled their genes.  (loc. 1379)

    A bartender one-third his age pretended to be interested in him.  Claspers didn’t mind being strung along.  The bartender had stellar fake boobs and a quick sense of humor.  He considered telling her about his years as a big-time smuggler, but he doubted it would improve his chances of getting laid.  Once upon a time, sure, absolutely – but hers was a generation that grew up on homegrown or Humboldt and thought Panama Red was a merlot.    (loc. 2699)

Kindle Details...
    Being the newest addition to Hiaasen’s “adult” Kindle offerings, Amazon sells Bad Monkey for $8.99.  Most of his older books go for $5.99.  I borrowed my copy through my local library for free, although there are usually a half-dozen or so people with "holds" on Bad Monkey.

”She was an outlaw and a schizo, but I loved her anyway.”  (loc. 4583)
    Hiaasen’s books are formulaic.  I make this statement with statistical confidence since Bad Monkey was the fifth book I’ve read by him.  The elements of a Carl Hiaasen novel generally include the following :

    1. A psycho protagonist down on his luck.
    2. An equally messed-up girl (or several) to help him back on his feet.
    3. Inclement weather, usually a hurricane.
    4. An incongruous animal.  Or two.
    5. Gullible tourists.
    6. Greedy land developers.
    7. Equally psycho bad guys…
    8. …who eventually get their just desserts.

    It took me a couple books to get used to point #1, but I’ve made my peace with Hiaasen’s antiheroes.  I’m now kewl with his “two wrongs make for a page-turning storyline” literary style.  The elements may be repetitive, but the wit, characters, and plot details are always fresh.

    8 Stars.  There’s nothing deep or epic about Bad Monkey, but it’s a great “light read”.  Subtract 1 star if you prefer your protagonist to have the morals of a Boy Scout.

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