In Native Tongue, journalist Joe Winder goes after developer and theme park owner Francis X. Kingsbury, who employs Winder at the Amazing Kingdom, located in Miami and in direct competition with Disney World. Winder serves as a journalist and “public relations person” under and tightly-wound man named Chelsea.
At the beginning of the novel, two thieves have stolen some rare blue-tongued mango voles from Amazing Kingdom, especially a notable event because these are the last remnant of the species. Winder’s job as PR man leads him into an investigation of the voles whereabouts and who stole them. The story is also told from the perspective of the two thieves, who are “forcibly employed” by an elderly eco-terrorist. They thought they were just in for one job of stealing the voles; little do they know that the ruthless old man has more devious plans.
As Winder’s investigation ensues, he finds himself entangled in a scandal and and after the eco-terrorist, a former governor who is now homeless, and his own sleazy employer Kingsbury. When Orky the Killer Whale suddenly dies at Animal Kingdom, the mystery really heats up. After the Amazing Kingdom animal keeper of the voles becomes missing, pieces of the puzzle start to come together and Winder is getting to the bottom of things.
Hiaasen has a unique style, and I like his wry sense of humor; I found myself laughing several times during Native Tongue. Being a Floridian, I especially enjoyed the setting and the references to Florida. While initially wary as to whether I would enjoy a story about voles, I quickly became engrossed in the novel and recommend it to those looking for some humor and mystery.