"Skinny Dip" may be the best beach read of the summer! Carl Hiaasen's satire and dark humor do wonders for crime fiction. He turns out the most extraordinarily eccentric characters: the stripper sister-in-law; a quirky environmentalist nephew; the has-been writer neighbor; evil scoundrels who are beyond redemption; Tool, a hulking but kinda lovable brute, who is the villain's heavy; a trashy mistress; and resilient victims who give as good as they get...or better! Set in South Florida, Hiaasen highlights the area's nuttiness and some of the weird folks who inhabit that corner of our country. Not one character could be considered "normal" in this novel, but behind strange facades beat good hearts.
Joey Perrone, the almost-murdered wife of corrupt Charles "Chaz" Perrone, makes it back to shore after her husband tosses her overboard a cruise ship, far off Key West's coast. He must have underestimated Joey's talents. She's a former swim star. And thanks to a floating bale of marijuana and the assistance of Mick Stranahan, a burnt-by-love ex-cop, she doesn't sink. Oh no! Joey lives for pay-back.
Chaz, an incompetent marine biologist, (he doesn't even know which direction the Gulf Stream flows in), has long been on the take from agribusiness tycoon Red Hammernut, (great name!), who's been dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. He thinks that Joey has discovered that he's been exchanging clean-water samples for the actual tainted water that is the result of Hammernut's environmental pollution. But his wife doesn't have a clue about the scam.
The lovely, curvaceous Joey recovers her strength, mental and physical, at the island home of her gallant rescuer Mike, who is the victim of six failed marriages. Instead of going to the police, however, she decides to play dead. She persuades Mike to help her mess with Chaz's mind while she figures out why he tried to kill her.
This is a fast paced, fun, often hilarious read with wonderful characters...and humor galore, if you laugh at dark things and enjoy farce mixed with your suspense. I really enjoyed it.
Carl Hiaasen must surely be a rather demented person. Anyone who can come up with such wacky plots, not to mention the continually offbeat characters that polulate his novels is either a genius, or an idiot savant! His latest tickled my funny bone, as all of his books do. If South Florida is really anything like the place he writes about in his novels, I'm glad I've never spent any time visiting there. Even the throwaway characters are bizarre, as for example the parents of our story's heroine, who (the parents) died in a very unusual airplane crash. We have hairy strongarm men, redneck millionaires out to cheat the government, misplaced Norwegian policemen longing for snow, and a myriad of other folks crawling off the pages of this book. Of course, we welcome the return of Mick Stranahan, who was last seen in "Skin Tight", another of the author's wierd tales. I don't want to discuss the plot, because it is hilarious, but there are two captive pythons in the book, in addition to an elderly female cancer patient who turns a bad man into a somewhat good guy. Just one word of warning: if you go near the South Florida swamps, beware the Captain!!!
Taking a page from John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen uses the Everglades as a backdrop for this comic novel. Marine scientist Chaz Perrone has been taking bribes from an agri-businessman to fake his biological tests of the great Florida swamp. On a second honeymoon cruise with his wife, who he feared had discovered his phony reports, he throws her overboard. What he hadn't counted on was that this champion swimmer would be able to make it to shore. The rest of the novel involves a revenge motif.
I've read one previous Hiassen novel, STORMY WEATHER. I thought the characters were over-the-top, but I got this one for practically nothing so I thought I'd give him another try. I was pleasantly surprised in some respects. Joey Perrone had me at "hello" and her fifty-three-year-old rescuer and former cop Mick Stranahan had me hoping the old guy would get the girl. My favorite character, however, was homicide detective Karl Rolvaag (an inside joke for anyone from Minnesota) who hates Florida and its oppressive humidity and can't wait to get back to Minnesota. Rolvaag provides authentic humor as he owns a pair of albino pythons who drive his neighbors to distraction. At one point the pythons escape and Rolvaag is blamed for the disappearance of small pets in the neighborhood.
My problem with the book involves Chaz Perrone; he's just too stupid to be a viable threat. He's also a sex maniac who puts the make on practically every woman he meets. Viagra jokes ensue. There are so many of them that this sit-com effect becomes a subplot in the book.
Hiassen deserves kudos for his treatise on Everglades depletion, but he needs to sharpen his villains. I'm afraid he's planning on bringing Chaz Perrone back for an encore as he's still alive at the end of the book.
Florida is a unique state. It is the number one tourist destination in the world with more theme parks and pristine beaches than just about anywhere else. However, it also is quickly being overdeveloped and if you believe Carl Hiaasen, it is due to greedy and unscrupulous individuals. However, Hiaasen makes them out to be cruel and ridiculous characters whose greed will lead to their inevitable demise. The fun for the reader is watching them self destruct.
The latest Hiaasen antihero is Chaz Perrone who for no explicable reason throws his wife off an upper deck of a cruise ship in a vain attempt to kill her. His wife, Joey, survives and with the help of her rescuer and new friend, former cop and hermit Mick Stranahan, try to come up with answers while exacting their revenge.
So many authors try for humor. However, in many instances they try too hard and it becomes quite forced while the plot lags. Hiaasen is the measure of what ingredients go into making the best humorous novels in the mystery genre today. The strength of his work are several. First, the plot is always interesting comically reflecting abnormal behavior in what should be routine situations. In this case taking a cruise vacation. Second, the characters are truly outrageous and unforgettable. The wackiest in this story is Troy, a very large man hired to protect Chaz. He has a bullet stuck in his buttocks which causes him severe pain requiring him to steal pain medicine in the form of adhesive Band-Aids from local nursing homes. Chaz comes in at a close second. He is incredibly self centered worried more about his potency than the well being of his wife or girlfriend. He is a marine biologist who hates marine life as well as biology. Why he does it remains the mystery. Of course it is the act of throwing his wife off the ship that begins his eventual demise. On top of all this is an ecological warning about saving the Everglades and a riveting plot occasionally interrupted by truly hilarious lunacy. Many try but nobody does funny like Carl Hiaasen.
I strongly encourage you NOT to read either the jacket blurb or most reviews of this book. For some reason, people seem to want to give away most of this story to nonreaders. If you do read the spoilers, you will probably only think this a three or four star book . . . yet it is really a tour de force if you let Mr. Hiaasen work his magic without any preconceptions about the story.
As the book opens, Chaz and Joey Perrone are enjoying their second wedding anniversary by taking a cruise that is about to return them to Port Lauderdale. But there's a problem! Despite experiencing great sexual energy, Joey finds herself unexpectedly not enjoying the bliss that such a trip might suggest. Clearly, something's very wrong with her marriage . . . and she doesn't have a clue!
The rest of the book develops for her the reasons why Chaz married her and why the marriage suddenly soured for him. Once she realizes what's been going on, she also wants revenge. What ensues is one of the funniest and most original turning-of-the-tables you can imagine. In the process, Joey learns a lot about herself and what she really wants from life.
As usual, Mr. Hiaasen draws imaginatively on the themes of how greed and self-interest cause people to lead artificial lives that threaten both the environment . . . and ultimately all of us. There's a brilliant symbol involving a deformed snake that makes this book haunting as well as humorous. Snakes also play symbolic roles in other parts of the story. Remember the garden of Eden whenever you read about a snake in this book.
The book does a superb job of helping many of its characters develop and grow based on their experiences. I thought that the evolution of the character named "Tool" was especially well done. Tool goes from being someone who blindly follows orders to someone who takes responsibility for his choices, and makes better ones than those who have been ordering him around. Joey, Ricca, Corbett, Karl, and Chaz also experience meaningful changes as they come to appreciate what they have done.
For long-time fans of Mr. Hiaasen's writing, you will be pleased to meet two old friends in this book.
That about says it. Carl Hiaasen has written some really entertaining books, and this one almost makes it. I suspect some of the people who gave it the rah rah rave reviews havent read his earlier greats. The idea for the story is really good, but I think his writing is starting to slip. Here's what I consider some of the flaws. I wish he'd stop recycling minor characters like Skink (who is now called Captain). I am just plain sick and tired of watching him eat road kill, tie people up and pop his glass eye in and out. I think it's time he was laid to rest for good. Mick Stranahan I remember from an earlier book, but he doesn't do anything that interesting in this one. Joay is the real mastermind, and I think she could do better. The writing should have been tightened up, in the middle of the book the story began to grind to a standstill for awhile. There were a lot of silly incidents that didnt further the action, which was pretty exciting when it would get going. Finally the earlier books created outrageous situations that just kept on growing and the humor was incredible. In this book, I thought the author was laying on the humor with a sledge hammer. The character of Tool was a good personification of the technique. In short, the author can do a lot better, although in some books he's done worse. I'd like to see more of Joey, maybe Rolvaag, Rose and Corbett. This book raises some good new possibilities if the author wants to take advantage of them.
on July 21, 2004
Carl Hiaasen is the Elmore Leonard of South Florida, delivering the same combination of off-beat characters, thrown together in absurd and menacing situations, with a guarantee that after 300 pages, everything will come out all right in the end with virtue rewarded and evil given the heave-ho.
With this cast of characters, "Skinny Dip " should be a lethal loony romp. Yet I rarely cracked a smile. The budding relationship between Joey and Mick is charming and romantic in its rough-hewn fashion, and Tool undergoes a surprising change.
But "Skinny Dip " is a lazy book. Thrillers work best when the heroine faces and overcomes insurmountable odds. But Joey's husband is unpleasant to be around, incompetent as a wildlife biologist and a horndog of Clintonian proportions. He's also an incompetent villain. Over the course of the book, he's insulted, attacked and abused by almost everyone. Despite his attempts at homicide, you can almost feel sorry for the fool.
However, my wife found "Skinny Dip" far more funnier than I did. She finds it funny that a guy on Viagra can't get off. Can't understand why.
on June 11, 2005
One of the best of Hiaasen's tragicomic South Florida capers. This time around, Hiaasen's gallery of grotesques and eccentrics includes a couple of return appearances: retired / disabled investigator and island-dwelling loner Mick Shanahan (last seen in Skin Tight) plays an important role, and even the ever-recurring Skink, former Florida governor and current Everglades-dwelling, roadkill-eating wingnut, makes a couple of cameos.
Add to these the corrupt and murderous, outlandishly oversexed, but comically incompetent, wildlife biologist Chaz Perrone; the brutish and bizarrely hirsute thug Tool, who unexpectedly feels pangs of conscience; the politically super-connected agricultural mogul and eco-villain Red Hammernut, who doesn't; a Columbo from Minnesota who is given exactly a week to solve a murder; a couple of murder victims who won't die; a couple of pythons that terrorize housepets; a blackmail scheme involving a fake will, a fake funeral, and a sheep-farmer from New Zealand -- well, it's all pretty nuts. It's also a lot of fun, and it's vintage Hiaasen. Enjoy.
As always with Hiaasen, underneath the laughs here are a lot of anger and sadness. He makes the reader uneasy about the fate of our rapidly disappearing wilderness. His usual culprits are land developers, corrupt politicians and judges, carpetbaggers, and sometimes, promoters and tourists (e.g., Tourist Season). This time, he skewers as corrupted by corporate greed the scientific establishment that supposedly is trying to save what little is left of the Everglades. Let's hope his books awaken some sense of urgency or shame in the powers that be. On the other hand, let's not hold our breaths.
Requiring slightly more effort than your average murder mystery, this book is so darkly funny and offbeat that you hardly notice it rambling on a little longer than necessary.
Taking a different approach, we learn "whodunit" at the very beginning, and spend several chapters figuring out the "whydunit".
Hiaasen bestows almost every unlikable characteristic possible on his leading villain, Charles "Chaz" Perrone, an appearance obsessed, smooth-talking, selfish, insecure, horn-dog, lazy, pseudo-intellectual biostitute with a dark secret.
Unfortunately for Chaz, his perfect murder backfires, as he proves conclusively that he is spectacularly inept in that department.
Stubbornly refusing to die according to plan, his victim clings to life via a passing bale of Jamaica's finest, and is fortuitously rescued by former policeman Mick Stranahan, who whisks his catch away to his island home.
From this moment, Chaz' perfect life takes a dramatic swing, and the blue "dysfunction" pills can only solve one of his many problems. He soon discovers that he hasn't got the testicular fortitude for recent events, and starts falling to pieces.
Although highly implausible, full of coincidences, and overly long, the colorful characters and graphic imagery combine with the dark humor to make this worthwhile, if rather light reading.
Amanda Richards, January 8, 2005
on October 18, 2004
Okay, I will admit that I sometimes avoid the hot best-sellers just because. Just because a writer is popular does not mean he is always good. We all know how difficult it is to stay fresh. I recently got around to reading a borrowed copy of Skinny Dip and I loved it. Strange, romantic, mysterious, a green novel. No disappointment. It is a tight story that speeds through the waterways of South Florida sampling this and that along the way. I highly recommend this book for a relaxing and fun read that will give you something to think about. Like who ever heard of a crooked biologist who detests nature? And, wow, I am not the only person who hates the cultivated excess of cruises.
I also wanted to know what happened to Mick, the character from Skin Tight. I liked this Mick much better and was happy with the way he has mellowed with age. He is still strong and sexy, but less scary. I hope he shows up again as a secondary character in some future novel. I like the idea of looking in on him every ten years or so and letting his complex personality unfold.