Everything goes straight crazy in this hilarious tale of a severed human arm reeled up from the dead-calm waters with its middle finger rigidly hoisted up; a passionate, vacuum-wielding cop turned roach patrol; a shit-throwing, washed up monkey from Johnny Depp’s pirate movies; and a horny voodoo witch who solicits sex in exchange for a fake curse. Now, how else can things possibly go right?
Bad Monkey is a perfect book to read by the beach with its heat inducing description of South Florida and the blue waters of The Bahamas. It’s somewhat rare to find a crime fiction that carries a verve of insanity on top of political corruption and deception. I can say this is where Carl Hiaasen sets his foot to claim his place on this less trampled genre.
The story opens on the hottest day of July, as a tourist named James Mayberry hooked in a shark-nibbled arm while trolling in the Key West waters. The severed arm is contracted into a fist except for its stiff middle finger pointing up. To solve the mysterious crime, enter late of Key West’s wisecracking cop and vigilante Andrew Yancy, who was demoted to roach inspector after notoriously beating up his ex-girlfriend’s husband with a Hoover vacuum.
Although still suspended from the Monroe County office, the sheriff asks Nancy to hand the arm over to Miami- where floating corpses and body parts aren’t that unusual — to avoid bad publicity, hoping that the crime wasn’t really committed within his jurisdiction. Eager to take his badge back, Yancy snatches the opportunity only to find out that the Miami Police Department doesn’t want supervision over the arm. So the arm finds its way into Yancy’s freezer along with his popsicles for weeks.
Later on, the arm is identified by the owner’s wife Eve Stripling. However, Yancy has a hunch; something smells fishy. So he decides to launch a one-man investigation to know how the arm detached from its owner, all while fending off dog bites, scratching monkey, ruining his neighbor’s spec house development, and wooing Miami’s Latina medical examiner Dr. Rosa Campesino.
I can’t remember the last time a novel had cracked me up by its humor and wit until Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey tickled me with its biting plot and hysterical one-liners.
The author unabashedly discloses a few local tourist cons in South Florida. One that’s lingered in my memory is the low pirate scam of sport-fishing crews that the author says actually took place in Miami. Not only that, but it’s also alarming to know that Miami is actually the “floating body parts capital of America”. Suffice to say, there are also restaurants that don’t mind serving customers with chowder topped with roach parts and rat droppings. Truly a great way to curb your appetite.
Beyond the book’s crazy antics, its central issue laid its laser focus on the builders who ruin the virginity of beautiful places. The Florida that was once a scene to marvel is now being lost to development, overcrowding, and McMansions.
While all these revelations can hurt Miami’s tourism, Hiaasen never minded spilling them just so he could take back the pristine paradise that the reckless real estate developers screwed and spoiled.
There are back stories that occasionally halt the story’s swift action flow, which purpose serves to puzzle, if not keep the readers guessing. These seemingly irrelevant stories converge together upon the main story line. This kind of structure is meaningful to readers who achingly wait to make sense of it all. Carl Hiaasen executed the complex procedure without a single flaw.
Bad Monkey is the author’s 13th book, so there’s no doubt that he has mastered the process of weaving the tendrils of each different drama together to form a flawless storytelling- only that it’s admirably dirty and tarnished.
Hiaasen owns Florida. He made that clear in the book, and he made sure lucrative island resorts and property developments won’t profit from tourists ever again. But that’s just doing the opposite. Hiaasen’s writing made me like him to the extent that visiting Florida might be a great idea to enjoy the sucking heat of the sun.
Reader discretion is advised.
“The typical Key West murder is a drunken altercation over debts, dope or dance partners.”
Title: Bad Monkey
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Published: 2013, Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: Crime, Humor