Friday Favorites 2/15/2013

volesVance and Violet are Blue-Tongued Mango Voles, supposedly an endangered species of rodent, on display at Amazing Kingdom of Thrills, an amusement park in the Florida Keys owned by a former mob figure living in the Witness Protection Program, Francis X. Kingsbury.  Kingsbury says he wants to make the Amazing Kingdom into a place where everyone can see the world through children’s eyes, but he’s not above faking wildlife exhibits, destroying the fragile environment of the Florida Keys, or using lethal means to get there.  When a group of environmentalists led Molly McNamara of the Mothers of the Wilderness liberate the voles, the park’s PR writer and resident journalism dropout, Joe Winder, is commissioned to use the vole-napping as publicity for the Amazing Kingdom.  Then, the park’s zoologist turns up dead with a broken back … inside the asphyxiated body of the park’s killer whale, Orky.  Smelling a real story that might return him to investigative reporting, Winder uncovers a plot to illegally bulldoze acres of Florida’s precious wetland to build yet another golf course.  To thwart Kingsbury, Winder finds himself teamed with a pistol-packing Molly McNamara, a former governor of Florida who now inhabits the swamp, living on snakes and roadkill, and a contract killer sent to eliminate Kingsbury.

This is the plot of Native Tongue, the first novel I read by Carl Hiassen.native tongue  Hiassen is an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald who, in 1986, started writing quirky mysteries pitting corrupt politicians and land ravaging developers against slightly-crazed environmentalists and oddball heroes.  The locale is always Florida and the plots quirky enough to stretch credibility, which is OK, because the details are largely played for laughs of the out-loud variety.  He features snappy dialog reminiscent of Elmore Leonard and the suspense never gets swamped (if you’ll pardon the expression) by the carlhumor.  Hiassen has written 10 more novels of similar ilk … two of my favorites are Striptease, featuring a lecherous congressman who is blackmailed after jumping on the stage at a strip club … and Skinny Dip, in which a retired cop rescues a young woman who survived being tossed from a cruise ship by her husband by clinging to a large bale of Jamaican pot.  In 2002, I picked up Hoot, another ecological mystery featuring endangered miniature ground owls and three middle school kids determined to save them.  Although Hoot was written for younger audiences, I enjoyed it, too.

Whenever I need a break from too serious fiction … or I just need to laugh out loud while reading a well-crafted mystery … I pick up something by Carl Hiassen.  He’s my Friday Favorite.

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One Comment on “Friday Favorites 2/15/2013”

  1. Coming East Says:

    Oh my goodness, Bud, I thought this was real until I got to the second paragraph. My first thought was, if this guy is in the witness protection program, then why is he advertising where he is? LOL. This actually sounds like a fun read and something I might enjoy.

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