Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Bad MonkeyBad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd call myself a fan of Carl Hiaasen. I enjoy his offbeat characters, his plots revolving around corruption and illegal acts that skate in under the radar, and his insight into how Florida runs. (Hint: it's badly.)

So of course I had to pick up his latest book soon after it came out. I picked it up on audio, because I seem to get around to audio books much more quickly. I think I would've enjoyed a paper version more, but I also wouldn't be reviewing it until sometime next summer.

Bad Monkey starts with a tourist on a fishing trip catching a disembodied human arm. The arm makes it to our hero, Andrew Yancy, a soon-to-be-ex-cop, who shoved a hand vac up a man's rectum for insulting Yancy's girlfriend at the time. The man was his girlfriend's husband, and a well-respected doctor. The matter is settled out of court, but it takes Yancy off the force and puts him in a job inspecting restaurants for health code violations. This makes him suspicious of even food cooked in his own kitchen, and he thinks he sees roaches everywhere.

In hopes of returning to his position as a cop, Yancy looks into the mystery of the severed arm, and becomes convinced the wife did it. When several witnesses are murdered and someone comes after him, he starts to think he's onto something. His investigation takes him to the Bahamas, where the suspect widow is funding a condo by the ocean. That's where the titular monkey comes in. Driggs is a capuchin monkey with a skin condition and a fondness for fried food. His owner, Neville, was told he's the monkey from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and the book does delve into Driggs's back story to confirm that. The monkey's behavior, though, indicates it's a lie. He's anything but tame, and brings Neville only grief. In trying to rid himself of the monkey, though, he unwittingly helps Dr. Rosa Campesino, Yancy's girlfriend and helper in the murder investigation, get free of kidnappers.

The plot is fairly convoluted, though still easy to follow. Perhaps it's the reliance on Hiaasen standbys. Yancy is the jaded but well-loved authority figure, capable of plenty of mischief. Rosa is the slightly unbalanced love interest, there are two evil developers, and dumb mooks abound. As always, in the end, the bad guys are punished, though the comeuppance comes well after the book's climax.

The ending felt rather padded, actually. We know the bad guys are doomed long before we find out their final fate. There are a lot of plot threads to wrap up, and a lot of characters to account for. It makes for an entertaining complexity, but it also made me feel like the book is too scattered, and would've been better told as a novella.

My only other complaint is that most of Rosa Campesino's quirkiness rests on the fact that she has some kinks. I don't find that particularly odd. But then, I'm well aware that what a person gets off to is no reflection on that person's sanity. Having kinks is not a sign of mental damage. The minor character who develops an auto-erotic asphyxiation fetish off-screen supports the notion that Hiaasen thinks something has to be wrong with someone who doesn't want vanilla sex, which is demonstrably false, and a damaging notion to promote.

The narrator for this audio book has a heavy New York accent, which, in a book about people in Florida, seemed a little off. I was distracted from the story anytime he had to pronounce a word with "hu" in it (yooge, yoomungous, yoomorous). He frequently sounded annoyed, like the book was a pain to have to read aloud, and he'd lower his voice in the middle of sentences. His emphasis was also off, making familiar words sound foreign. Needless to say, the narrator detracted from my enjoyment of this book.

Overall, I did like Bad Monkey, though its flaws became more glaring, read aloud by this narrator. If you're thinking of reading it, I recommend something you can read for yourself, instead of having to listen to this guy.


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