In his more recent outings, Carl Hiaasen seemed to have become a victim of his own success. His formula of Floridian zany crime capers centred around flawed heroes, hot chicks and ecological irresponsibility was wearing thin, and his books had become caricatures of themselves. Bad Monkey, however, is something of a return to form. Not back to the heady heights of Double Whammy or Sick Puppy, but Hiaasen’s enjoying himself again, and as a result so did I.
Andrew Yancy is a disgraced Miami cop, plying his trade in a small sheriff’s department on the Florida Keys. After some complicated turns of events, mostly down to his boss’ laziness, Yancy ends up with a severed arm in his freezer. At the same time, his career is downgraded even further, as criminal charges brought by his ex-girlfriend’s husband (who he publicly sodomised with a vacuum cleaner attachment) see him bumped down to roach patrol as a restaurant inspector. What’s more, a greedy real estate huckster is building a monstrous holiday home next to his house, breaking all the building regulations and obscuring his view of the sunset. Things start to look up when he meets a sexy Miami-based pathologist who aids his investigations into the owner of the severed arm; investigations which Yancy hope will see him reinstated at the sheriff’s department. On the trail of the arm’s widow, he finds himself in the Bahamas, during a hurricane, and all hell breaks loose. See? I told you Hiaasen was enjoying himself.
As you’d expect, Bad Monkey is teeming with oddball characters. Yancy is his most sympathetic main character in years, but even he is a total dick at times. The criminal mastermind behind the severed arm is utterly odious, and the grieving widow a self-absorbed princess in too-tight white jeans. My favourite was Neville, a sixty-something Bahamian and owner of the eponymous Bad Monkey (and boy is it bad), who becomes tangled up with both a mad voodoo priestess and our hero while trying to oust bent property developers from his families beach-front land. I found myself rooting for him and his grotty simian companion, and because this is Carl Hiaasen, everything turns out alright in the end. The bad guys get what’s coming to them, and all is as it should be. Phew.