Carl Hiaasen's characters ride and flail on little verbal hurricanes, and his literary storm shows no signs of dying down. Sick Puppy
shares Dave Barry
's giddy gift for finding humor in South Florida horrors, and a bit of Elmore Leonard's genius for pitch-perfect dialogue spouted smartly by criminals who are dumb as stumps. The title of Hiaasen's eighth novel could apply to most of its characters, but it chiefly refers to an ebullient Labrador retriever named Boodle and the millionaire eco-terrorist Twilly Spree. Let's just say that Twilly has a singular affliction: poor anger management in the face of environmental irresponsibility. When he spots Boodle's owner, Palmer Stoat, tossing litter from a car, Twilly goes to Stoat's home and removes the glass eyeballs from the animals that the bloated lobbyist had shot and mounted on his walls. Boodle gulps down the eyeballs, sustaining no small amount of digestive difficulties.
Soon Boodle and Stoat's wife, Desie, are fugitives from Florida's nature despoilers (who include the Governor, a "gladhanding maggot," the amusingly slimy Stoat, the human bulldozer Krimmler, the cocaine-importer-turned-developer Clapley, and the hit man Mr. Gash, who's fond of sex with multiple beach bimbos in iguana-skin sex harnesses to the tunes of The World's Most Blood Curdling Emergency Calls). Desie, who has a knack for calamitous romance, is smitten with Twilly, but urges him not to kill any litterbugs or pelican molesters: "Jail would not be good for this relationship." What keeps pure farce at bay in a novel that romps with the abandon of a scent-crazed Labrador is the otherwise charming Twilly's creepy edge of implacable fanaticism. And what redeems the funny/ugly violence from cliché is its colorful bad guys (they're as iridescent as oil slicks), Hiaasen's excellent wit, and the music of his prose. To evoke a drunk asleep on the beach, he adds a pungent detail: "a gleaming stellate dollop of seagull shit decorated his forehead."
Hiaasen is not unflawed. His original eco-terrorist character, ex-Florida governor Clinton "Skink" Tyree, seems like an interloper from the earlier books. But Hiaasen's the master of madcap ensembles (which is partly why the star-vehicle film of his fine book Strip Tease flopped). And even when you can see a chase scene's denouement coming for a beachfront mile, each paragraph packs descriptive delights to keep you going at breakneck pace. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
Florida muckraker Hiaasen once again produces a devilishly funny caper revolving around the environmental exploitation of his home state by greedy developers. When budding young ecoterrorist Twilly Spree begins a campaign of sabotage against a grotesque litterbug named Palmer Stoat, he gets much more than he bargained for. Stoat is a political fixer, involved with a bevy of shady types: Dick Artemus, ex-car salesman, now governor; Robert Clapley, a crooked land developer with an unhealthy interest in Barbie dolls; and his business expediter, Mr. Gash, a permed reptilian thug with ghastly musical tastes: "All morning he drove back and forth across the old bridge, with his favorite 911 compilation in the tape deck: Snipers in the Workplace, accompanied by an overdub of Tchaikowsky's Symphony No. 3 in D Major." After a wave of preemptive strikes centered on a garbage truck and a swarm of dung beetles, Twilly ups the ante and kidnaps both Palmer's dog and his wife, Desie, who finds Twilly a great deal more interesting than her slob of a husband. In doing so Twilly uncovers a conspiracy (well, more like business as usual) to jam a bill through the Florida legislature to develop Toad Island, a wildlife sanctuary, in a deal that will make a mint for all the politicos concerned. Chapley wants Twilly silenced and dispatches Mr. Gash. Palmer wants his wife and dog back and asks Dick Artemus to help in the rescue without derailing the bill. Who should be called upon but the good cop/bad psycho duo of Trooper Jim Tile and ex-Governor Clinton Tyree, aka Skink or the Captain, whose recurring appearances throughout Hiaasen's novels have made for hysterical farce. While there may be nothing laughable about unchecked environmental exploitation, Hiaasen has refined his knack for using this gloomy but persistent state of affairs as a prime mover for scams of all sorts. In Sick Puppy, he shows himself to be a comic writer at the peak of his powers. 200,000 first printing; first serial to Men's Journal; Literary Guild alternate; simultaneous audiobook. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.