Carl Hiaasen’s comic thrillers come with a guarantee — broad humor that capitalizes on absurd behavior; Florida quirkiness; social commentary that rivals Jonathan Swift, and a deep concern for the environment, all wrapped in a solid plot.
Hiaasen delivers all that and more in Bad Monkey, his 13th comic crime fiction novel. But no matter how over the top his story gets, he grounds it in reality — Florida type-reality, that is, in which scams and schemes co-exist on every corner.
Former Miami cop and soon-to-be former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy Andrew Yancy hasn’t won many friends with his law enforcement colleagues. He lost his Miami job because his attempts to turn in a crooked cop who ran a Crime Stoppers scheme backfired. In Key West, he’s forced on “roach patrol,” or as it is more politely described, restaurant inspector. That’s what happens when a deputy assaults his girlfriend’s husband with a vacuum cleaner.
But Andrew is a good cop, and he can’t turn off those instincts when a man’s arm turns up on the end of a tourist’s fishing line. The arm, which seems to have been part of a shark’s lunch, belongs to Nick Stripling, an entrepreneur in his 40s who made a fortune selling electric scooters to senior citizens. And the man’s wife — or widow — just doesn’t ring true to Andrew.
Andrew is energized by his investigation into the arm and what happened to the rest of the man. If he solves the crime — if there is a crime — maybe he will get his job back. With the help of a lovely Miami medical examiner, Andrew follows a trail that takes him from the Keys to the Bahamas.
Bad Monkey is the closest Hiaasen comes to a police procedural, but true to form, it also is a look at the ludicrous ways of Florida, such as the true bait-and-switch in which a dead sailfish is surreptitiously placed on a tourist’s line. Andrew delights in sending obnoxious people to filthy restaurants, and he has a running battle on how to sabotage the sale of the mega-mansion next door that has spoiled his view of the sunsets and keeps the little Key Deer away. He finds that a bit of well-placed road kill does wonders; so does a bunch of junk made to look like Santeria.
There is indeed a bad monkey, a nasty little creature named Driggs who loves to fling his waste and may have had a role in one of the Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He manages to have his moment in the spotlight, and the laughs come easy in Bad Monkey, as does the affectionate look at Florida’s eccentricities.
Oline H. Cogdill reviewed this book for The Sun Sentinel.