‘Squeeze Me’ puts Hiaasen’s views into focus

When I saw that Carl Hiaasen’s “Squeeze Me” was available, I just had to download it. Hiaasen is known for his dislike for over-development, pollution and corruption, but I wasn’t prepared for how strongly he’d make his feelings known.

The very wealthy, very tiny Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons disappears from Lipid House, where one of the many irrelevant charity balls held in Palm Beach, Florida, was in full swing. Authorities assume she’d been abducted.

Manager Tripp Teabull is eager to prevent any bad press. These galas are a major source of income for the mansions along the coast. When his groundskeeper tells him that a big snake is on the property, he immediately summons help.

Angie Armstrong was a veterinarian but left that to become a Florida game warden. She went to prison after feeding a poacher’s hand to a local alligator. She now runs the pest removal service “Discrete Captures.” Angie is kept busy relocating all kinds of unwelcome critters.

Angie arrives to find the snake is an 18-foot python that has just eaten a very big meal. She dispatches the beast and freezes it for state inspection and disposal. Angie is unaware of Kiki Pew’s disappearance, and Tripp Teabull wants to keep it that way.

At the same time, Palm Beach Chief of Police Jerry Crosby is dealing with Kiki Pew’s strident friend Fay Alex Riptoad and Kiki’s useless sons. All are demanding he do more to find the missing woman.

Palm Beach is also the winter White House. The area is abuzz whenever the president and first lady are in residence. Kiki Pew, Fay Alex and a few others are ardent supporters of the POTUS. They’ve even formed a group in his honor and attend every event at Casa Billacosa.

Hiaasen paints a very unflattering and thinly veiled picture of the first couple. It doesn’t take much to figure out whom he’s referring to. The plot is intertwined with side stories involving affairs, insider gossip, blackmail and backroom deals. Though very funny, it is sadly plausible.

Long story short – Kiki’s half-digested body is found, the snake lands on a busy highway and only Angie connects Kiki’s disappearance to the snake.

After lots of odd twists, Angie meets Florida’s former governor, now known as Skink. The slightly crazed man has been raising huge pythons with an aim to release them in Palm Beach in order to make the place undesirable, thus slowing destruction of wetlands and pollution of the waterways. Angie tries to dissuade him, but Skink is smart and very determined.

The one bright spot is Angie’s new relationship with a charming Secret Service officer. He hires her to patrol the grounds of Casa Billacosa during a presidential ball. That night Skink releases his snakes. Thirteen go to other events, but his prize 23-footer shows up at the presidential ball. Angie kills it before anyone is hurt, but when word gets out about the other snakes, the ball season comes to an abrupt halt.

Months later life is quiet in Palm Beach. The now ex-president doesn’t get much attention, and Skink has gone back into hiding. As Angie makes her monthly sweep of the property she is propositioned by the obese ex-president. When she strongly declines, he threatens to ruin her business. Angie has seen and heard enough to let him know how foolish that would be.

Just before she leaves, Angie sees a huge python heading towards shore. She makes a half-hearted attempt to catch it but isn’t really disappointed when it disappears.

We all have unique views on politics and politicians, so we may not agree on the satire of authors like Carl Hiaasen.