Bad Monkey, by Carl Hiaasen

Bad MonkeySomewhere around eight million years ago (read: before this blog and therefore lost to time), I read Carl Hiaasen’s book Skinny Dip and recall loving it dearly. But then somehow I managed not to read another of his books, which seemed like such a shame that I picked his newest book for my library book club just so I’d have an excuse to read it. I am smart like that.

Now I think I understand why I didn’t immediately read every Hiaasen available. Bad Monkey was funny, ridiculous, absurd, and weird, but it was also… weird.

So basically, there’s this guy, Andrew Yancy, who was a cop until he assaulted his girlfriend’s husband with a vacuum cleaner where the sun don’t shine, even in Key West. Now he’s on roach patrol, but angling to get back into the police department’s good graces. He gets tasked with driving a severed arm found in the Gulf up to Miami and ditching it for their cops to take care of, but instead he ends up storing it in his freezer and deciding to take on the case of this dead guy in order to get his job back. In the meantime, there’s a dude called Neville Stafford living in the Bahamas with his ex-movie star monkey, Driggs, trying to pull some voodoo on a rich white dude who bought Stafford’s land from Stafford’s sister. Stafford just wants his house back, but between the questionable loyalty of his voodoo witch and the strong right hooks of the white dude’s security team, he’s got some work to do.

The story was almost too obvious from the beginning — obviously Yancy and Stafford’s stories will collide, obviously the dead guy story has something more to it, obviously things aren’t going to be as straightforward as anyone (including me!) wants them to be. I thought one key plot point was so clearly labeled that Yancy would catch on immediately and then spend several dozen pages trying to convince everyone else, but instead he spent those pages and more doing everything but catch on. Come on.

But I suppose one doesn’t come to a Hiaasen novel for the intricate plotting, one comes for the zany characters and the hilarious writing, of which there are many and much, respectively. Yancy’s nuts, obviously. Then you’ve also got this poor guy trying to sell an eyesore house next door to Yancy’s place, which Yancy is passive-aggressively against (but more aggressive than passive, really). Then there’s Yancy’s old girlfriend, who turns out to be wanted by the cops for something completely unrelated, and Yancy’s new girlfriend, who works and does more than work in a morgue. Stafford and his monkey and the voodoo witch and the bodyguards and basically everyone we meet on the Bahamas is a little off, and the dead guy’s family is a piece of work, too. Altogether I am very happy with the relatively sane friends and family I’ve got!

So, A for absurd characters but, like, D for deranged but dragging plot. I might read another Hiaasen in the next eight million years, but it’s going to have to come with some strong recommendations.

Recommendation, mine: Read it if you love everything Hiaasen or need a book that will break your brain in the best ways.

Rating: 7/10

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