Take the monkey, Driggs. Driggs’s claim to fame was his starring role in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Unfortunately for him, his predilection for rubbing his genitals in public (featured on a Jumbotron, no less) and other such peccadilloes have put the kibosh on his film career. He now lives in an island, shuttled between an impoverished fisherman and a mad-as-a-hatter voodoo practitioner, all the while trying to fend off an unnecessary nicotine habit.
In Carl Hiaasen’s novel, though, Driggs is arguably the least eccentric character. This is because, in the author’s ambit of South Florida, the place is teeming with greedy developers, corrupt cops, ambitious politicians, and clueless government officials, all of whom carry more warts than your average hedgehog. Let’s not forget the hero, Andrew Yancy, formerly a police officer who, by the time the novel starts, has been reduced to inspecting restaurants for rodents because of his misadventure featuring a vacuum cleaner, a cuckolded husband, and Yancy’s paramour, who is the wife of said cuckold.
It is obvious that Hiaasen’s pet peeves are greedy developers who spoil the environment and low-rent scam artists. He starts with a veritable rogues gallery of characters, adds a bizarre plot about a couple covering up their Medicare fraud by a many-layered scheme, and uses his ear for dialog to Cuisinart an adventure that is part cautionary tale, part treatise on mankind at its greediest, and a whole lot fun to read.
In hot and humid South Florida, Andrew Yancy comes across a severed arm. When Yancy investigates, he finds a link between the arm and a Medicare fraud that takes him from Miami to the Caribbean island of Andros. Together with the monkey (an ally), the monkey’s owner (an ally), a retired corrupt cop (an unwitting ally), a coroner (an ally turned lover), a dentist’s wife with a past (an ally turned lover turned arsonist) and others, Yancy uncovers the fraud. The staccato dialog and pithy observations buoy the convoluted plot, although the denouement comes with still 70 or so pages to go.