Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Razor Girl

by Carl Hiaasen
333 pgs

Authors who live in, and write stories set in the state of Florida, often include characters in their stories whom those of us outside of Florida would consider farcical caricatures, people who couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Authors like Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry, Tim Dorsey, Bob Morris, and Jeffery Lindsay are some of the ones which come to mind. But Carl Hiaasen is in a class all by himself for his ability to pack such an eclectic, bizarre, and hilarious cast of characters into a story and then it’s almost as if he lets them loose on the page and watches as the mayhem ensues.

There’s not a better example of Hiaasen’s rare gift than Razor Girl. It begins with a minor car crash involving a reality TV agent named Lane Coolman and Merry Mansfield, a beautiful woman who gives the term “distracted driving” a whole new meaning. The accident was intentionally orchestrated by Merry’s employer, who ends up kidnapping Coolman for ransom. Coolman is the agent for Buck Nance, the star of a series called Bayou Brethren, a Duck Dynasty-style reality show about a family of Cajun rooster farmers. The accident leaves Buck without adult supervision at a Key West bar in which he gets himself into hot water with a series of racist and homophobic jokes and then disappears without a trace.

Former-cop and current health inspector Andrew Yancy becomes involved in trying to locate both missing men. But Yancy has problems of his own to deal with. Not only is he trying to get his police job back—which he lost after assaulting his mistress’s husband with a portable vacuum cleaner—but he’s also trying to prevent a newly-engaged couple, who just bought the property adjacent to his, from building an obnoxious mansion on it, blocking his serene view of the Keys. The man is a high-profile class action attorney, who is currently both suing the makers of a pharmaceutical deodorant gel which causes random tissue deformities and life-threatening erections, and, who is addicted to using the gel himself--much to the delight and consternation of his fiancĂ©, delight due to the latter, consternation due to the former.

Somehow Hiaasen always manages to incorporate the over-the-top cast of characters he assembles in his mind into an elaborate, fast-paced, and hilarious story, which alternately makes you laugh, blush, and shake your head in disbelief at the absurd spectrum of humanity, which the state of Florida seems determined to continually stretch.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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