Friday, March 27, 2009

Sick Puppy - Carl Hiaasen

1999; 513 pages. Genre : Witty crime. Overall Rating : C+.
Greedy lobbyists and unscrupulous land developers want to turn an unspoiled island on the coast of Florida into golf courses, condos, shopping malls, and high-rises. But first they need to pull some political strings to get funding for a new bridge to connect it to the mainland.
What's To Like...
The story moves at a decent pace. There's a dopily adorable black lab (the "sick puppy"), and two living, breathing, cosmetically-enhanced, immigrant Barbie Dolls. It has an "Animal House" type ending. The demise of the hired thug is hilarious.
OTOH, as oxymoronic as it sounds, the predictable plot requires a huge suspension of belief. One example - the baddies kill their own "environmental specialist" for no discernible reason other than to establish that they're the baddies. Then there's the characters. Here's four of the main ones...
Twilly Spree : Has anger-management issues and a thing about littering. Runs elderly ladies off the road for chucking a cigarette butt. Beats teenagers to a bloody pulp for tossing a beer can. Steals dogs. Sleeps with other men's wives.
Desie Stoat : Repeatedly betrays her hubbie's political deals, for no apparent reason. Cheats on him too.
Twilly's Mom : Sees nothing wrong with those two showing up at her house - with the badly beaten-up hubby. Helps tie him to a chair and puts a pillowcase over his head. Her parting words to Twilly when the three are leaving - "Try not to hurt him too bad, dear."
Skink : Ex-governor. Now runs around the Everglades like a psycho hermit. Beats up people to get information. Kills badly-hurt guys in a slow, painful way.
A Blacker Shade of Dark...
Okay, you're probably not impressed with those four. Here's the deal. They're the good guys. Which gives you some idea how vile the bad guys are.
Twilly initially crosses paths with Desie's hubby (Palmer Stoat), when the latter tosses some fast-food wrappers out the car window. His vengeance - dumping 10 tons of garbage onto Palmer's Beemie convertible, and 7,000 dung beetles into his house. Is there some morality lesson I should be learning from that?
Weirdly, I eventually ended up pulling for Palmer, despite him having no redeemable qualities. The good guys keep beating him up. The bad guys keep beating him up. His wife and dog leave him. His expensive cigars are fake. All he wants to do is be a crooked deal-maker.
I am told that some of Hiaasen's other stuff is funnier. So we'll give Sick Puppy a C+ because there are just enough funny parts, and at least the good guys aren't pathetically boy-scoutish. And resolve to read at least one more of his books.


L said...

Your description made me think of A Confederacy of Dunces, not because of theme exactly, but that it's peppered with characters I'm not sure if I'd like. Ever. And a down on his luck anti-hero that I'm not sure if I'd like either. Funny in a sick way, like a car crash. No? I like these kinds of books. Yes, I don't know what that says about me...

hamilcar said...

that's a good comparison. i have a feeling most people will find Sick Puppy hilarious.

tne garbage-in-the-BMW incident occurs early in the book. it struck me as incredibly stupid. to give a slob a lesson about littering, he dumps a truckload of litter in, on, and around Stoat's car. i think it gave me a sour attitude towards Twilly for the rest of the book.

luckily, i think Hiaasen invents a new hero for each book. so Twilly won't be in the next one i read.

Amanda said...

Well, your review at least was very funny. Especially the part about the fake cigars. :D

Trixie said...

I liked Skinny Dip by Hiaasen. It was pretty funny and not entirely predictable. The more reviews I read, I'm not sure I'd like other books by him though.

hamilcar barca said...

Skinny Dip is said to be one of his better ones. i've got Basket Case sitting on my TBR shelf - the general opinion seems to be that it's about equal to Sick Puppy.

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