“Bad Monkey” is Carl Hiaasen at his best, which is to say it induces side-splitting laughter on nearly every page.
A Florida native and Miami Herald columnist, Hiaasen plums the rich depths of the Sunshine state’s bizarre real-world events, from corrupt politicians to sleazy developers and environmental plunderers. This story features Andrew Yancy, a disgraced cop fired from the Miami Police Department for a botched whistle-blowing attempt and most recently suspended from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for doing something unnatural with a vacuum cleaner attachment to his mistress’s husband. And Yancy is one of the good guys in this tale.
Young’s boss, Monroe County Sheriff Sonny Summers, is a compassionate man. The Sheriff manages to find Yancy a new position as a restaurant inspector. Yancy yearns to ditch the “roach patrol” and return to policing and he sees an opportunity when the Sheriff, looking to avoid bad publicity, asks him to take custody of a human arm reeled in by a tourist on a fishing charter.
Yancy decides to do some off-duty detective work and in the process he falls for a sexy Medical Examiner, Dr. Rosa Campesino. They trace the frozen limb to one Nick Stripling, a Medicare fraud artist who specializes in filing bogus claims for motorized wheelchairs. Only in south Florida could this scheme work. Yancy discovers the feds were on Nick’s tail when he disappeared and presumably drowned off the coast of Florida.
His detective work leads him to an island off the coast of the Bahamas, where the luckless native Neville Stafford, has been swindled out of his land by Nick’s widow, Eve,and her shadowy boyfriend. The land isn’t the only thing Neville has lost. His pet monkey, Driggs, who may or may not have had a bit part in The Pirates of the Caribbean, is taken by a voodoo lady called the Dragon Queen as payment for a curse she puts on Eve’s boyfriend.
And then there is Bonnie, his ex-girlfriend, a former school teacher who is on the run from Oklahoma, where she was arrested for having sex with one of her students. As if that’s not enough, Yancy’s neighbor is building a huge monstrosity of a house that will block his breathtaking view of the sunset over the water.
Hiaasen’s droll observations of south Florida are mordantly funny. At one point, he wrote that premeditated crimes on Key West were rare “because they require a level of planning and sober enterprise seldom encountered among the island’s indolent felons.” At another point he describes the newly elected Sheriff as “a local bubba named Sonny Summers who won office because he was the only candidate not in federal custody, the two-frontrunners having been locked up on unconnected racketeering charges eight days before the election.”
Laughs abound in this page-turning story. I was sad to see it come to an end.