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Not as powerful but still entertaining...
on December 13, 2006
One of the funniest mystery writers today is Carl Hiaason. In his latest, Nature Girl, he provides us with his usual fare--a hilariously funny story but with a message. While not as powerful as some of his previous work, Nature Girl is still an entertaining book.
Nature Girl is Honey Santana, a female version of Twilly Spreey (who Hiaason featured in Sick Puppy). Santana is divorced, raising a precocious 12 year old son Fry, and apparently suffers from bi-polar disorder. Santana's husband, Skinner, still loves his former wife and tries to run interference for her. She is known to do outrageous things "trying to demand more decency and consideration from her fellow human beings." When a hapless telephone solicitor, Boyd Shreave, interrupts her dinner time with her son and then calls her a rude name, Santana hatches a plot to teach Shreave some civility.
Santana lures Boyd and his girlfriend to the Florida wilderness and Ten Thousand Islands. Little does she know that the cast of characters that will encounter on Dismal Key. They include Sammy Tigertail (a Seminole Indian trying to hide out from the law and who hears the voices of a dead man), Gillian LaCroix (a college co-ed who wants to be taken hostage by Tigertail), Eugenie Fonda (Shreave's reluctant girlfriend), Theordore Dealey (a PI who has been hired by Shreave's wife to get incriminating photos), and Louis Piejack (an obnoxious sexual predator stalking Santana). As Dealey observes, "I wish I hadn't taken this god-damned case--I've never run up against so many card-carrying fruitballs in all my life." It's a cast that only Hiaason could produce.
But through the comic scenes, there is much to be serious about in Nature Girl. Hiaasen is anti-development, anti-tourist and pro-environment. Through it all, these themes prevail. He gives tourists a new name--tourons (rhymes with morons). He wants us to appreciate the wild beauty of Florida without wanting to change the state into a giant retirement community complete with golf courses and big box stores. There is also a spirituality running through Nature Girl. Santana reflects "the evening news made her wonder if God was dead; the morning sun made her believe he wasn't."
Despite some mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed Nature Girl and am always happy when Hiaasen publishes something new.