Written by Carl Hiaasen — Bad Monkey is another masterpiece by Carl Hiaasen, in his usual inimitable style. Hiaasen, longtime reporter and then columnist for the Miami Herald, is an astute observer of South Florida life and politics. His novels are steeped in the absurdities of the region, and combine Charles Willeford’s sense of ironic decay with a distinct screwball flair. Bad Monkey, released today, is a worthy companion for Hiaasen’s previous books and is highly entertaining in just about every way.
Andrew Yancy is Hiaasen’s protagonist. Yancy is a former detective with the Miami police department, now with the Monroe County sheriff’s office in the Florida Keys. Things aren’t going well for Yancy when the book starts, and they’re bound to get worse. Yancy is fired from his job as a Monroe County detective for assaulting his lover’s husband in a ribald but particularly humiliating fashion. (This being Hiaasen’s world, the husband in question has a habit of willingly engaging in humiliation that is even more ribald.)
Yancy leaves the police force to endure his own humiliation – life as a restaurant inspector. Additionally, his view of the sunset will soon be blocked by a gigantic and gauche McMansion being built next to his own house. Things aren’t going well for Yancy. But this is all amusing backdrop to Hiaasen’s central mystery, which is every bit as screwball as Yancy’s life and acquaintances.
Yancy wants to get his detective job back, and he thinks he has just the case to accomplish his objective. He also has a human arm in the freezer at home. A tourist seemingly hooked it at random on a fishing expedition, and the Monroe County sheriff would like to get rid of it. The sheriff tries to pass the arm off to the Miami police department, but they don’t have the body – or any part thereof – to which the arm belongs. Loath to frighten away tourists, the sheriff would rather not investigate the limb.
Thus the arm goes into frosty limbo in Andrew Yancy’s freezer. Yancy, however, sees the arm as just the ticket to get his own career out of limbo. The arm is eventually claimed by an uncouth woman who was ostensibly in Paris at the time her husband died. The authorities conclude that the unfortunate man was boating when his boat capsized, and the sharks took all but the left arm. But Yancy has his suspicions of the less-than-grieving widow. For her part, the new widow seems to have a mysterious boyfriend who may or may not be a motive for murder.
More importantly, Yancy sees this case as his ticket to get back on the force. If he can prove a murder, and finger the wife or her lothario as the culprit, then he may be able to escape his restaurant inspector gig. So he begins an off-the-books search for incriminating evidence, aided by his new girlfriend, a sultry coroner. The restaurant inspector must watch his back, however – an unknown man in a bright orange poncho is killing various people connected to the supposed drowning.
The investigation takes Yancy and his lover from the Keys to the Bahamas, where they must match wits with a meathead bodyguard, a nymphomaniac Voodoo queen, and the book’s eponymous bad monkey, among others. Considering he is the title character, one might expect to see more of the monkey. But he is only one character in the ensemble, though he is almost certainly the only character who would look endearing with mouth agape on the book’s US cover.
Comeuppance will arrive, but not before plot twists and turns that will surprise and amuse you. Hiaasen is a gleeful sadist, mixing noir fatality with gallows humor. Judgment in Hiaasen’s world may not be swift; in fact, it will likely be wryly convoluted. But judgment is sure. And for Bad Monkey’s readers, it will be hilarious.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars