Publication Date: February 24, 2015
In Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen, a dismembered arm leads a quirky cast of characters on a wild chase through South Florida and the Bahamian Islands. Catching a killer becomes the sole focus of Andrew Yancy, a disgraced cop searching for redemption and longing to leave his new roach patrol assignment to return to investigating.
Andrew Yancy recovered when he accused a dirty cop of taking bribes but coming back from sodomizing his girlfriend’s husband with a leaf vacuum in an attempt to defend her honor is proving more difficult. Still, Yancy is willing to do almost anything he’s asked until he’s asked to make a problem arm gone astray go away and he simply can’t let things go that easily. Add to his problems, a McMansion developer trying to sell a spec house next to his own and a new relationship with a local coroner. Yancy is in no way a hero. He is a man working on instinct, getting attacked by men in orange ponchos and losing weight because, as the newest health inspector assigned after the previous guy died of some dread bacteria, he’s seeing “behind the curtain.” When the arm comes into Yancy’s life, he sees his chance to get that investigation fix. A shady wife with a boyfriend and a stepdaughter convinced that her father was murdered along with a missing body culminates in an attempt on Yancy’s life which sends him on the road to get to the heart of what really happened.
Hiaasen is a brilliant author. His characters are imperfect, crass and unashamed. The only way to describe Yancy is messy. Some of the problems happen to him and some he brings on himself, but he deals with all of them with dogged persistence and humor. There’s a scene in which he’s rescuing a dog belonging to his suspect that is hilariously implausible but exactly fitting in the world Hiaasen presents — leaving readers with the breathless near miss as opposed to a frown at a contrived piece. Hiaasen writes a rich cast of Bahamian characters from the Voodoo Queen to the man whose family property has been sold out from under him by his sister to the man’s his “semi-famous” monkey. Their Bahamian patois is somewhat hard to follow at first but is consistent and acts as the main delineator between Florida and Bahama characters. There’s no denying that all characters, whether they matter to the story’s bottom line or not, are richly drawn and fleshed out. The difference between Florida fiction and the rest of the country is that the Florida characters are easy going and a little more out there. They all have a Jack-Reacher-approach to life in their own corner of the world. Simplicity is the key driving them but their interactions are all fascinatingly complex.
It almost seems inappropriate to take such a deep look at a work that clearly doesn’t take itself seriously. After all, we start with a severed arm missing its expensive watch and a police bureaucracy which will do anything to lose it until it turns out to belong to someone important. The story is fascinating and the humor is addictive. The bad guys are bad guys and the good guys aren’t great guys. It’s the perfect afternoon indulgence for a person that might watch a show like “Shameless” in their free time. Bad Monkey is a fun read that is not politically correct but it isn’t gratuitously offensive either. Like Dorsey, I envy those of you who are meeting this author for the first time.
Bad Monkey is a quick read. If you love Florida fiction like I do, pick it up today.
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