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Art and Culture

Likely Stories: Bad Monkey

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Jim McKeown
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Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Newspaper journalist, Carl Hiaasen, turned novelist, writes another thrilling mystery.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

My main reading guilty pleasure includes several former (or current) newspaper journalists who turn novelists.  Pete Dexter, Jennifer Weiner, and Carl Hiaasen top the list.  According to the author’s bio in his latest novel, Bad Monkey, Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida and has authored 12 novels.  He also has four children’s books, four works of non-fiction, and four novels he co-wrote.  Carl still writes a column for The Miami Herald.  While I am not a big fan of murder mysteries, something about Hiassen’s style draws me in again and again.  I have read four of his previous novels and enjoyed every one.

Andrew Yancy is a skinny homicide detective who assaults his lover’s husband when he abuses her.  The wealthy man threatens a law suit, and Yancy is demoted to “roach patrol,” or restaurant inspector as punishment.  When a fishing boat lands a human arm, Yancy is asked to take it to the Miami Medical Examiner.  The police chief of sleepy, quiet Big Pine Key hopes the case will go away.  He has no desire to take on a homicide investigation.  The ME examines the limb but refuses to keep it.  Against instructions from the chief, Yancy takes it home and stores it in his freezer.  The incident is labeled a “boating accident.”  A couple of shootings occur and they seem to be unrelated, but the detective in Yancy is not so sure.  He begins accumulating clues.

A sub-plot involves the construction of a monstrous summer home, which provides some comic relief – although Yancy himself is pretty comical.  Throw in the Dragon Queen – a voodoo priestess -- a man angered by the destruction of his family home, and a nasty little monkey, and the reader is in for a rollicking ride.

Hiaasen always draws interesting and eccentric characters.  He writes, “The phone kept ringing, but Yancy didn’t answer it.  He was drinking rum, sitting in a plastic lawn chair.  From next door came the offensive buzz of wood saws and the metallic pops of a nail gun.  The absentee owner of the property was erecting an enormous spec house that had no spiritual place on Big Pine Key, and furthermore interfered with Yancy’s modest view of the sunset.  It was Yancy’s fantasy to burn the place down as soon as the roof framing was finished. // He heard a car stop in his driveway but didn’t rise from the chair.  His visitor was a fellow detective, Rogelio Burton.  // ‘Why don’t you pick up your phone?’ Burton said. // ‘You believe that monstrosity? It’s like a [damn] mausoleum.’ // Burton sat down beside him. // [The Police Chief] wants you to take a road trip.’ // ‘Miami?’” 

Like most heroes asked to embark on an adventure, Yancy at first declines, but he then decides he better go north in the hope getting his badge back.

Like all good mystery writers, Carl Hiaasen’s latest novel slowly reveals the truth of the wayward arm. Bad Monkey will satisfy anyone’s thirst for a good old whodunit.  5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  You can read my book blog at RabbitReader.blogspot.com.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and HAPPY READING!