Friday, March 31, 2017

Powder Burn, by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano

Before Carl Hiaasen started writing his south Florida comedy/crime novels, he and Bill Montalbano write a series of three unfunny crime novels, the first of which is Powder Burn.  Like all of Hiaasen's solo novels, Powder Burn is set in Florida and features the shady side of the Sunshine State.

When accomplished architect Chris Meadows unexpectedly runs into his ex-lover and her (his?) daughter, his world is rocked when, a few short minutes later, he watches helplessly as they are killed by an out-of-control driver on the losing end of a car chase.  As he runs to the scene, he sees a man get of the chase car and shoot the driver and passenger in the other car.  He then turns to shoot Meadows in the leg.

As he recovers, he vows revenge on the killer and the network that spawned him.  Quickly Meadows embeds himself in the drug dealing culture of Miami in the 1980s.  The Columbians and the Cubans are in a turf war, drugs are flowing from Columbia, and body counts are building.  Designing his plans for revenge as meticulously as he designs his buildings, Meadows schemes to bring down the men responsible for his friend's death.

Powder Burn is an interesting cultural artifact, as Hiaasen captures the reality of drugs and crime in Miami.  The drugs that flowed from Columbia, through the Cubans, into professional offices and luxury homes throughout south Florida.  Meadows embraces this culture a bit too heartily, obviously going after the murderous elements but enjoying the highs, sex, and money.  It's ugly, and, to me, shows the indivisible connection between supposedly victimless vices and the crime that surrounds it.

Fans of Hiaasen's later fiction might enjoy Powder Burn, but it lacks the fun, the colorful characters, and the absurdity that mark his fiction and make it so enjoyable. 

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