Onyx reviews: Bad Monkey by Carl
There's a lot going on in Bad Monkey, the latest caper novel from humorist
Carl Hiaasen. At times it seems like the book can't possibly hold any more plot,
and then it does.
Andrew Yancy is a former member of a south Florida police department. He's
suspended after he assaults his lover's husband with a vacuum cleaner hose in
the most humiliating way one might imagine. Instead of being dismissing, he's
ultimately reassigned to a different department: he becomes a restaurant
inspector. As a result of some of the disgusting things he finds while carrying
out his duties, he stops eating.
He's still a cop at heart, though, so when a tourist on a fishing charter
reels in a man's arm, his curiosity spikes. No one wants to have anything to do
with the limb, though. It's bad for tourism in Key West and the Miami police
won't take it since the death occurred outside their jurisdiction. Yancy thinks
the limb is suspicious. There's a mark where the arm once sported a fancy watch
and the shark teeth found embedded in the flesh are from a shore-dwelling
variety that doesn't frequent the depths where the arm was found.
When he's not on the job, Yancy is a laid-back dude. He smokes dope and hangs
out at his waterfront home. However, lately he's been fuming because a real
estate speculator has been building a house that blocks his view. The building
is going to be much taller than allowed by zoning regulations, which tells Yancy
that the fix is in. When he's not chasing down clues, he's doing his level best
to sabotage the project. He also has women problems, including an awkward but
ongoing relationship with the woman whose husband he assaulted (who may, in
fact, be on the lam for her own indiscretions) and a flirtation developing with
the Miami coroner who is helping him investigate under the table.
The plot gets quite complicated and is, of course, highly improbable. Hiaasen
isn't after verisimilitude. He simply wants to make readers laugh. Yancy
discovers a link between the arm and a man who ran a medicare scam involving
mobility scooters. His wife, who stands to inherit a fortune, acts suspiciously
and the man's daughter accuses the woman of having something to do with his
death. A short while later, though, once she's promised a cut of the life
insurance money, the daughter withdraws her accusation.
The cast of quirky characters grows by leaps and bounds. The story shifts
back and forth between Florida and the Bahamas, where a resident of one of the
lesser islands has been bumped off his property by developers who are
constructing a timeshare on his family lot. He refuses the substantial financial
settlement because he doesn't need much money. He simply wants his home back. To
further complicate the situation, there's also a tropical storm bearing down on
Enter the bad monkey, a simian who, according to the legend, appeared briefly
in at one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films before being dismissed for ugly
behavior. The monkey gets passed around to various owners over the course of the
book, including a voodoo queen who has an unhealthy fascination with the animal.
He's mean-spirited and prone to bad habits, and he isn't exactly pivotal to the
plot, though he does intervene from time to time like a simian version of Puck.
He's reminiscent of the monkey that once appeared on a season of Friends—he
must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Yancy's job affords him the freedom to continue his unauthorized
investigation. More people are killed, solidifying his belief that the man whose
arm ended up on the end of a fishing rod didn't simply go down with his ship.
Comedy is hard and works best at shorter lengths than this book. There came a point about 2/3 of the way through
Bad Monkey when it seemed like everything
was wrapping up, but there was a healthy chunk of pages remaining. The book is
funny, mostly because of Yancy's antics, but it would have been better if it had
been shorter and more focused.
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