I have a fondness for Carl Hiassen books that is directly linked to the fact that I spent my formative years living in South Florida and that I was raised by two incredibly sarcastic folks. This means that I am hardwired to love this man and his books.
And I do.
I decided that a return trip into the land of Hiaasen was a great way to start the upcoming summer season so over Memorial Day weekend I dove right in (pun intended). Skinny Dip starts off with a woman recounting being tossed into the Atlantic Ocean from a cruise ship by her husband, and trying to puzzle it out while also swimming for shore – which is many, many miles away. Our fateful heroine ends up fighting a shark, she thinks, but instead ends up holding close to a bale of marijuana to float closer to shore, and he rescuer who lives alone on a small island in Biscayne Bay.
Joey Perrone is our castaway and her rescuer is a former Miami cop, Mick Stranahan. We learn throughout the book about each character’s difficult pasts. She was orphaned at a young age, he’s been married six times. Because this is a Hiaasen book it’s not a romance, but it is a comedy (Joey’s parents die in a plane crash which was most likely caused by a trained bear waking up in the co-pilot’s seat and he has had his boat stolen several times by exes looking to leave the island).
While a good chunk of the story is about Joey and Mick, the larger part of the story is about Joey’s revenge on her husband, Charles ‘Chaz’ Perrone and his reasons for attempting to off Joey in the first place. Chaz, it turns out, is part of Samuel ‘Red’ Hammernut’s plan to keep polluting the Everglade. Red is a crooked farm tycoon who owns large vegetable fields adjacent to the Everglades, which he pollutes with fertilizer run-off. Chaz is officially employed by the state authorities to test swamp water for pollutants but he is also on Hammernut’s payroll, forging the test results and allowing Hammernut to continue doing as he has always done. Chaz thinks Joey has found him out, and the only way to keep her from telling the authorities is to kill her. When Joey comes to on Mick’s island she asks him to keep her rescue a secret and allow everyone, including her husband to think that she is indeed dead and launches a plan to exact her revenge and eventually uncover Chaz’s off the books job.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as things devolve into madness. If you’re a Hiaasen fan there are also sightings of favorite Everglades’ hermit Clinton ‘Skink’ Tyree and Twilly Spree. Mick Stranahan is himself a repeat offender in Hiassen’s novels, originating in Skin Tight. I completely loved my time in Hiaasen’s world, and I’m sure I’ll venture back in again before the summer is out since there are a bunch that I haven’t read. For the parent types out there Hiaasen’s Hoot is fantastic.