Colorful characters commit fraud and murder in Florida

I was hoping to download something by Carl Hiaasen from InfoSoup, the library website, but nearly everything I hadn’t read was already checked out.

Eventually, I found “Bad Monkey.” Like his other books set at the far end of Florida, it is full of oddball characters and laugh-out-loud situations. The plot is extremely convoluted, but I’ll try to sketch it out.

Andrew Yancy knew he wanted to be a cop from the day thieves ransacked his grandmother’s house during her funeral. He eventually worked his way up to detective status. Sadly, Yancy’s temper got the best of him when he overheard Bonnie Chase’s husband berating her in a public square. Yancy was in the middle of an affair with Bonnie, and he came to her aid by attacking her husband with a vacuum cleaner hose. I won’t say what Yancy did, but the husband sued him and the sheriff demoted him to restaurant inspector.

Yancy detests “Roach Patrol” and asks Bonnie to get her husband to withdraw the lawsuit. Yancy decides to end the affair when Bonnie confesses that her real name is Plover, and she’s fugitive after jumping bail for having sex with one of her high school students in Oklahoma.

Now Yancy spends his time inspecting local eateries and brooding about the new house being built next door. Evan Shook owns the four-story monstrosity that defies city codes and blocks Yancy’s ocean views. Shook wants to sell fast and return to New York.

About that same time, a tourist couple hooks a human left arm while sport fishing. Yancy’s boss does not want the hassle of an investigation, so he instructs Yancy to take it to Miami, hoping they would take it as their case. There, he meets Dr. Rosa Campasino. She does an “autopsy” and notes that the arm was not cut off in a boating accident, plus it is missing a very unique and expensive wristwatch.

After some back and forth, the arm is identified by Eve Stripling as belonging to her husband, Nicky. It is assumed that he died when his fishing boat went down. Several things about the event don’t ring true, and the detective in Yancy just can’t let the case go.

Without real authority, he begins to dig into Nick Stripling’s life. It isn’t long before the young man who worked on the boat that caught the arm is gunned down, adding more fuel to Yancy’s investigation.

Meanwhile in the Bahamas, Neville Stafford has been notified that his beloved property on Andros Cay has been sold to a developer, and he must leave. Neville “owns” a small, scraggly monkey named Driggs. The animal is said to have appeared in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies but was fired for several nasty habits. In hopes of stopping the developer named Christopher, Neville enlists the aid of a feared old voodoo crone known as Dragon Queen. Neville is OK paying with rum, but he is sickened when she demands he give her Driggs. He sadly agrees as he must get his property back.

Yancy has uncovered a history of Medicare fraud, two murders and more, but legally, he can’t do anything. But Yancy won’t let the law keep justice from being done. The tangled storyline soon has Yancy, Rosa, Neville and Driggs working together to find and arrest Eve Stripling and her elusive boyfriend Christopher.

Eventually, the truth is revealed. When justice comes, it is in a way that no one expected. I don’t know how Hiaasen does it, but he sure knows how to keep a collection of characters involved and interesting.

We can be thankful that our lives don’t reflect a Hiaasen novel, but any time we want a little weirdness, all we have to do is go to a public library and check it out.


BOOK: “Bad Monkey”

AUTHOR: Carl Hiaasen

PUBLISHER: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

PUBLISHED: June 11, 2013

PAGES: 417