Friday, 17 December 2010
Carl Hiaasen: Skinny Dip
The Atlantic at night: beautiful, eh? Not if you're half drunk and your husband has just pushed you over the rail of a cruise ship. And it's your wedding anniversary to boot.
Joey Perrone finds herself swimming for her life in the murky waters. Confused, mad as hell, fearful but determined. Suddenly reminded of the sharks when something big and rough-skinned butts against her, she fights but slips into unconsciousness. Her last thought is of her husband:
"Prick, Joey thought."
Relax campers, she isn't dead. She's collided with a bale of marijuana dumped by a fleeing smuggler. Clinging on, rescue appears in the shape of Mick Stranahan -- ex-journo, semi-bum, fisherman and decent guy.
Meanwhile, Chaz Perrone is playing the bereaved husband, even if it means he can't see his girlfriend for a while. Most people think his wife's diappearance and presumed drowning an accident: Detective Rolvaag thinks there's something wrong but he wants to escape from Florida to Minnesota as soon as he can.
Why did Chaz push Joey overboard? He panicked when she found some papers - he's been a bad boy, using his position as a marine biologist checking water samples to give a clean bill of health to a major polluter. At the cost of a few dollars and a vulgar SUV, Red Hammernut saves millions by dumping toxic waste. Chaz proposed the deal after finding newspaper reports of serial mistreatment of immigrant farmworkers. Chaz is a sly rascal ...
Joey decides that she won't reappear alive or tell the police - she has no proof but she does have a few ideas for messing with Chaz's mind. Mick is reluctantly enlisted and the games begin. Can they drive hubbie to madness or suicide? Will Hammernut's hired heavy get in the way? Will Rolvaag solve the case deepite his desire for cold and rain?
This is a little less madcap than some of Hiaasen's novels, though the elements of farce and the eye for absurdity are present throughout, as always. Daft actions have unlooked for consequences and so the story builds, nicely paced and as believable as a good novelist can make it.
There's the usual memorable baddy, strong but silent goodies and a grand denouement - another for fans and for people lucky enough to be discovering Hiaasen for the first time.
Posted by Paul Ward at 10:21