Pages

2010/03/22

Stormy Weather



This is extremely disappointing for a Carl Hiaasen novel. It's as funny as Hiaasen's best, but the plotting is horrible. This is one of those books with two storylines that eventually converge, but they do so in the most haphazard way, and afterwards it's not clear why the characters don't just go their separate ways.

Both plots center upon a massive hurricane that strikes Miami. In one we have a tourist couple, a pair of newly weds who were honeymooning at Disneyland. When the hurricane comes, the husband, who's a bit of a schmuck, decides to tour the disaster area. After an encounter with an escaped monkey, husband and wife become separated, and the husband ends up in the hands of deranged ex-governor James "Skink" Tyree, who will be familiar to readers of Hiaasen's other books. Skink kidnaps the husband for, well, no reason other than to make a tourist suffer. It's his thing.

The wife hooks up with a man named Augustine, the owner of the escaped monkey whose interests include long walks on the beach, donating money to charity, and juggling skulls. Together with a state trooper, who happens to be Skink's ex-bodyguard, they arrange to get the husband back.

Meanwhile, we have a second, more interesting plot, involving criminal low-lifes (this being a Hiaasen novel, you can be sure they're terminally stupid) who want to cash in on the hurricane by pulling some insurance fraud. Matters are complicated because one of the men involved is a mobile home salesman, and another a building inspector. Both were lax in their jobs -- the salesman lying through his teeth about the ability of trailers to withstand hurricanes, and the inspector having conducted his inspections from his car. A number of people have had their homes destroyed because of these yahoos, and some of them want revenge.

What strains credibility is that these two men didn't know each other before they got involved in the scam, yet they've angered the same man who comes looking for both of them.

You spend the first half of the book wondering how these two plots will come together, and when they do you'll be asking, "Wait, that's it?" One plot line gets resolved halfway through the book, and then the characters from that story get drawn into the other part of the book for no good reason. They're like, "Oh, wow, that looks like an interesting story, and we have nothing to do now that we've finished our plot, so let's jump into that for no reason."

As entertaining as the book is, I just can't recommend it as highly as Hiaasen's other books.