Bad Monkey is Carl Hiaasen?s 13th crime novel, and if you?re not already a dozen books deep into Hiaasen?s oeuvre, you?re got some entertaining reading ahead of you. Where other mystery writers offer hard-boiled characters, heavily detailed procedures or nonstop thrills, Hiaasen has built a successful career out of making readers laugh. There are only two things you need to know about Hiaasen: His carefully plotted novels are set in Florida, and they?re seriously funny. It?s Key West meets the Keystone Kops.
Bad Monkey (Alfred A. Knopf, $27) begins when a tourist aboard a charter boat reels in a severed human arm with a permanently extended middle finger. Enter our hero, Andrew Yancy.
Yancy is a disgraced ex-cop from Miami about to become a disgraced former detective with Monroe County. Yancy is on suspension for assault after attacking the husband of his ?future former girlfriend? Bonnie Witt with a vacuum cleaner attachment. Busted down to restaurant inspector, Yancy is tapped to transport the limb to the office of the Miami medical examiner by Monroe County sheriff Sonny Summers. Delivering the arm also delivers Yancy into the arms of Rosa Campesino, the assistant medical examiner.
Of course, it?s only a matter of time before Yancy has a full-fledged murder investigation on his hands. The missing arm belonged to corrupt businessman Nicholas Stripling, and his death pits Nicholas? greedy daughter against his equally greedy widow.
Meanwhile, Yancy is waging war against a real estate developer who is constructing a four-floor mansion next to Yancy?s property, obstructing his view. Hiaasen wrings just the right amount of comedy out of Yancy?s antagonistic relationship with the developer and just the right amount of romance out of Yancy?s relationships with Bonnie and Rosa.
As the action shifts to the Bahamas, Hiaasen throws in troubled Neville Stafford and his white-faced Capuchin monkey, Driggs; Dragon Queen, a local voodoo priestess known for her missing teeth and insatiable sexual appetite; Christopher Grunion, who might have masterminded Stripling?s disappearance along with a few other casualties; a pair of tight-lipped FBI agents; John Wesley Weiderman, from the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, who is seeking information on Bonnie and her alter ego, Plover Chase; and Carter Ecclestone, the hired muscle simply known as ?Egg.?
There are plenty of laughs, but Hiaasen takes the plot seriously. Yancy is attacked by a Chow-cocker-rottweiler mix and frequently beaten up or threatened. Egg is attacked by both Driggs and the Dragon Queen, and there?s a game-changing plot twist that raises the stakes and heightens the suspense.
All in all, I was thoroughly entertained. Bad Monkey doesn?t feel like work, it feels like vacation. ?????
[ Librarian Loves ]
Selected by Jeanne Goodrich, executive director for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District
Most of us are familiar with the flamboyant Oscar Wilde. But until the publication of Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde (Pegasus, $21), we knew little about his wife. Author Franny Moyle takes us on a fascinating journey through the intellectual, Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite circles of late 19th-century London and Europe as she recounts the life of Constance Wilde. Constance grew into an accomplished writer, fashionista (an early advocate for ?rational dress?) and proponent of women?s rights who was forced to flee to Europe as Oscar?s scandal exploded.