Today’s post is written by Tova from Circulation Services.
Since reading 11/22/63, I have become a Stephen King fan, devouring many of his books back to back. King’s ability to weave in-depth character development into his genre-busting tales of horror and mayhem is not only a sweet treat for the reader, but a source of inspiration for aspiring writers like me. One of the more understated aspects of King’s writing is his sense of humor. Sometimes offbeat and quirky, a certain plot point or snatch of character dialogue will have me laughing out loud – and I do like to laugh.
While in between reading King’s books, I decided to search out other authors who infuse humor into their tales of suspense. Using WRL’s NoveList, I happened upon Carl Hiaasen, an author whose books are often requested by library users. Although I had never read any of Hiaasen’s works, his newest book is Bad Monkey; and, as someone with a soft spot for monkeys, I was compelled to give it a read.
Okay, so the titular monkey, whose image graces the cover of the book, is not a cute Curious George-type. Mischievous, cynical, and impulsive, Hiaasen’s monkey commits acts that shall go unmentioned in this blog entry. However, Hiaasen’s monkey is one of the most memorable, and surprisingly sympathetic, characters in the book. Hiaasen successfully uses him to help tie the novel’s multiple plot threads together.
Set primarily in southern Florida, Hiaasen’s tale revolves around Andrew Yancy, a disgraced Monroe County detective who has been demoted to Health Inspector (aka “roach patrol”) due to a heinous act he committed against his mistress’ husband. In spite of his reassignment, Yancy just cannot help but launch his own investigation when a fisherman reels in a human arm from the ocean; and Yancy inadvertently ends up in possession of it. How did the arm become detached from its original owner? Official investigators want to neatly declare that the detached arm is the result of an unfortunate boating accident and be done with it. However, Yancy, after uncovering some inconsistencies and shady details, thinks otherwise. His investigation leads him back and forth between Key West, Miami, and the Bahamas. Along the way, Yancy consorts with a colorful array of characters, including a sexually adventurous coroner, a disconcerting voodoo queen, his fugitive ex-mistress, a creepy land developer, the mysterious widow of the arm’s original owner, and, of course, the aforementioned monkey.
I found the humor I was looking for as the book is often laugh-out-loud funny. The whereabouts of the detached arm, which Yancy first stores in his freezer, is a running gag throughout the story. The snappy dialogue is also a source of humor. Yancy’s antics made me laugh and groan simultaneously as he transgresses multiple boundaries and finds himself in sticky predicaments of his own making. The fun is in imagining Yancy as he tries to get out of his self-made predicaments. That Yancy was morally and ethically corrupt pleased me greatly. I prefer my protagonists to be like most people in life – a mix of good, bad, and everything in between.
Hiaasen cannot compare to Stephen King when it comes to character development; however, his work stands on its own as he succeeds in creating a memorable cast of characters. By the end of the book, we certainly have a more rounded view of Yancy and we can sympathize with his desire to get his old detective job back, even if he employs questionable means to that end.
I would recommend Bad Monkey if you are looking for a light, fun, suspenseful story with a wicked sense of humor, and if you do not mind some coarse language and raunchy adult themes. I will certainly check out more of Hiaasen’s work – while in between Stephen King books, of course.
Check the WRL catalog for Bad Monkey