13 December 2008

Review: SKINNY DIP, Carl Hiaasen

publ. 2004 by Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-375-41108-9, 355 pages.

Chaz and Joey Perrone are celebrating their second wedding anniversary with a luxury cruise on the M.V. Sun Duchess near Florida. Chaz has a pretty dodgy job as a marine scientist. He is the stooge of a business tycoon who is polluting the Everglades by illegally dumping fertiliser. Chaz thinks Joey has rumbled that he is submitting doctored water samples to the authorities. Nothing is really further from Joey's mind. She thinks the anniversary cruise is a wonderful, romantic idea, and that's why it comes as a surprise when Chaz grabs her by the ankles and dumps her overboard into the Atlantic in the middle of the night.

Forunately for her Joey was a champion diver and instinct takes over as she plunges towards the ocean. Joey is rescued after almost 24 hours in the water and decides to wreak her own vengeance on Chaz.

SKINNY DIP is a strange mix of crime fiction and light humour. It seems to me written with half an eye on a screen version. Episodic chapters are populated by larger than life characters, with sometimes humorous overtones. And yet the content is serious enough. Chaz, as far as he is concerned, has murdered his wife, and later on goes on to demonstrate his ineptitude by trying to murder two other people. Chaz has one main focus in life: sex. His attempts to prove his virility and to increase his vigor through little blue pills are increasingly unsuccessful. Most of the action takes place against the backdrop of the pollution of the Everglades. Joey's brother flies in from New Zealand, getting to Florida in what seems to me to be remarkably quick time, having been alerted by Joey to her attempted murder. He holds a memorial service for Joey designed to make Chaz even more unhinged.

There were two characters who stick in the mind.
Karl Rolvaag, the cop whose investigation it becomes, is convinced that Chaz is the key to Joey's disappearance. All Karl wants to do get away from Florida and go back up north. He keeps two pet pythons who are missing for much of the book, presumably on the loose in the condominium where he lives in disharmony with other residents whose small pets go missing.
The pick of the bunch is Tool, an intellectually challenged giant who is engaged by Chaz's employer as a minder. He is addicted to morphine and raids hospitals for the aged to acquire morphine patches. On one such excursion he has a life changing experience when he meets and falls for Maureen, an eighty year old waiting to die.

So does the mix work? Well yes, it does in a way. There were bits that made me smile, but for me the action could have moved just a bit faster. But then I read for mystery and crime rather than for humour. SKINNY DIP may tickle your fancy just a bit more than it did mine.

My rating: 4.0

See Bernadette's review.


Anonymous said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy it more Kerrie. I certainly wouldn't want to read this kind of book all the time but I did enjoy the farcical side of it for a change.

My aplogies in advance to the rest of the group if they didn't enjoy it. I'd rather be there to hear about it but I shall be at work having different people complain at me about things that matter far less than books.

Kerrie said...

That's the funny thing about this book Bernadette. I did enjoy it in a way, and you and I gave it the same rating. I wouldn't rush out to find another Hiaasen in a hurry, but if I came across one I might pick it up.
Commiserations with having to work today.


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