Thursday, March 16, 2017

Double Whammy, by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is the comic genius of the Florida mystery novel.  He has a way of making the bizarre underbelly of Florida culture hilarious and lovable.  Double Whammy is Hiaasen's first book to feature Skink, a character who appears in many of his novels.  Skink meets up with R.J. Decker, a former news photographer turned private investigator (of sorts) who has been hired to look into cheating in major bass fishing tournaments. 

Of course, as is the case with all of Hiaasen's novels, nothing is as simple as it seems.  Decker gets sucked into this world, finding himself the subject of an investigation instead of the other way around.  Skink is his muse, his guide, his roadside chef.  Decker pines for his ex-wife, but gets distracted by the siren song of his client's sister.  Decker and Skink may not get their man, but their man gets what's coming.

For some authors, the plot twists and turns and delayed revelations that Hiaasen attempts would weigh down the story.  Hiaasen finds a way to make the unwieldy and absurd work.  Lest you think only fishing fans will enjoy this book trust me: you don't have know and love fishing.  Hiaasen makes fun of fishing competitions and TV shows, but in an affectionate way.  He also makes fun of greedy televangelists, but not very affectionately.  The familiar target that seems to work its way into every Hiaasen book: Florida land developers.  Skink is Hiaasen's alter-ego, living off the land (and water) of Florida, bemoaning every shovelful of dirt, dredged up lake, and built up coast line suffered in the Sunshine State.

I have to admit, I did not enjoy Double Whammy as much as I have enjoyed some of Hiaasen's later novels.  But since it introduces Skink, Hiaasen fans won't want to pass it up.  Skink is one of the strangest, most memorable characters I have run across in fiction.  Now, if I were to run across him in real life, I'm not sure what I'd do. . . . May he live long in the works of Carl Hiaasen.

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