A novel by Carl Hiaasen
Book review by Jules Brenner
Knopf, released 9/6/16, 352 pp., $27.95
Return to list of books
It's probably fair to say that this author, with his admixture of crime,
mystery, quirky characters and outlandish humor is one-of-a-kind. Fans will
know exactly what I mean -- but if you haven't yet been introduced to the
zany world of Carl Hiaasen, get a load of this!
Getting the scam... er, trip into gear is Lane Coolman, a Hollywood talent
agent tooling along a Florida highway in his rental, on his way to "meet a
man in Key West," when he's hit in the rear by a Firebird. Jumping out to
check on the other driver, he finds a pretty redhead behind the wheel with
her jeans and panties pulled down to her knees holding the razor with which
she had been shaving her... well, use your imagination.
Call it introduction by way of rear-end colission, she calls herself Merry.
But, as she's a self-professed professional escort, and hardly anyone Lane is
going to be friendly with on a long-term basis, he introduces himself
as Bob. (Remember, now, this is Hiaasen-world).
While driving her to a prearranged spot in the city to meet her partner in
crime, Zeto, after the tow truck hauls her bashed ride away, she tells
Coolman that (1) her last name is Mansfield, (2) that she lied about being an
escort, (3) and that she's actually an artifacts appraiser. She also (4)
continues to call him Bob after Lane confesses to his real name and (5) has a
talent for getting men to drive her to her destination.
On that trip she informs him that the accident was no "accident" and that he's
actually the target of a contract killing by a "short fused individual"
(Mafia crime boss Dominick "Big Noogie" Aeola) who wants payback for being
swindled by one Martin Trebeaux, a man who sells stolen sand to the ultra
rich whose beaches had been washed away by rising sea levels. But when
"oily-haired" Zeto drives up in a white Tesla wearing a leather bomber jacket
and a gold earring -- the guy who will execute the contract -- it doesn't
take him long to realize they've got the wrong driver of a "late-model"
four-door Buick heading south."
The character list and people's lives have quite a few turns to take, some of
them hairpins and this is only what you learn to page eight. You've got to
admit that this is a clever way to introduce characters but this is only the
tip of the cast list iceberg with which Hiaasen drowns us in a deluge of
insanity and satire. Next up is Buck Nance, star of the redneck reality show
"Bayou Brethren" a smash hit about chicken breeders. Takeover
psychotic and main villain is his tormenter, Blister.
Because he gives almost equal time to everyone in his little universe of
whackos, I'm not sure I can even pick who among these self-absorbed, clueless
but lively neurotics might be considered the protagonist. Most likely, it's
Andrew Yancy, an ex-detective working as a restaurant inspector whose live-in
girlfriend Rosa is an ex-morgue worker graduated to the ER. Yancy meets the
title girl but his heart is too entwined with Rosa for any serious interest
to blossom beyond using her as an inside source to solve a murder case and
getting his job back. But, then, there's fate.
Lest you think you've got the picture, don't get ahead of scam-a-minute
Hiaasen. How he mixes issues of life or death with trivia is part of the
mischievous style. And, he's not shy with the sub-plots, such as the
interwoven drama of Deb, who turns up at his door while looking for her
two-hundred grand diamond engagement ring from fiance' Brock Richardson, a
lawyer who plans to build a mcmansion next door.
This is an "anything goes, for a satirical punch" from the inventive
mentality of a surprise-on-every-page writer. Though repetition does sneak
into what is a cramped, if diverting, slice of Americana foolishness, there
was no way I could not read and enjoy every word.
The genius is in putting together the preposterous for our entertainment.
If you don't yet own Razor Girl and would
like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.