Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
June 11, 2013
“. . . a fun, fast read and a wild ride.”
BAD MONKEY is vintage Hiaasen. A quirky protagonist, surrounded by even quirkier characters, mired in odd-ball intrigue, in South Florida, of course. This story revolves around Florida Keys detective Andrew Yancy, newly busted to the role of restaurant inspector, aka “roach patrol,” for attacking one Dr. Clifford Witt, husband of a former Yancy lover, with a hand-held Black & Decker vacuum cleaner. All videoed by cruise liner tourists with cell phones in hand. Yancy embarks on several hit and miss attempts to get his badge back. No easy proposition. Particularly since his boss, Sheriff Sonny Summers, opinion is that Yancy was lucky they didn’t “charge you with sodomy.”
But the warm waters off the Florida Keys offer up salvation in the form of a severed arm, middle finger extended as if to say, well you know. Seems the arm belonged to a wealthy crook, who scammed various medical insurance companies for millions, only to die in a boating accident, leaving the arm behind to be hooked by a tourist on a fishing charter. But in Hiaasen’s world things are never as they seem. Not even close.
The police want the missing arm case as well as a murder and a suicide (or not) to go quietly into the archives. But, Yancy doesn’t buy it. He sees nefarious activity in the shadows. And he has a plan. Solve the murder, disprove the suicide, and prove that the wife offed the arm’s previous owner. Or did she? Tie up all these loose ends and they’ll have to return his badge. Won’t they?
This story is totally Hiassen. It bounces around the Keys, South Florida, and the Bahamas. Reminiscent of his earlier works such as SKINNY DIP, STORMY WEATHER, and STRIP TEASE, BAD MONKEY is filled with easy one-liners, believably unbelievable occurrences, and odd ball characters: love interest Dr. Rosa Campesino, a medical examiner with a penchant for sex on the dissecting table; The Egg, a homicidal brute who has Yancy in his sites; the Dragon Queen, a Bahamian scooter-riding VooDoo witch who delights in kinky sex and casting black spells; and of course Driggs, the “bad monkey.” Bad doesn’t quite cover it. Maybe petulant, combative, or recalcitrant. No, vile. That’s the word. What else could you say about a monkey who attacks without warning and tends toward flinging excrement on a whim? Yeah, vile works.
As if all this didn’t fill Yancy’s plate, his neighbor is constructing a massive mansion that will block Yancy’s view of the water. Yancy’s attempts to waylay those plans are numerous and insane (in a Hiassen sort of way).
Through solving murders, tracking down folks who have gone missing, messing with his neighbor’s head, and avoiding The Egg and Driggs as best he can, Yancy attempts to develop a real relationship with the good Dr. Campesino.
You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with all the characters, many having a couple of aliases, and all the scams within scams, but the pages will fly by. For Hiaasen fans (like me) this book will cause more than a few laugh-out -loud moments and for new fans, welcome to his world. It’s a fun, fast read and a wild ride.
Original review for the NY Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/review/bad-monkey