A scam that starts with a glamorous woman in a car ramming another (male) driver while shaving her bikini area with a sharp blade could only be a Florida story, couldn't it? Throw in a class action attorney addicted to the pharmaceutical that is the subject of his own suit, mobsters stealing Cuban sand for their Miami beach fronts and a Wisconsin folk band passing themselves off as poultry-breeding southern rednecks for a reality television show and you have ... nearly all the ingredients you need for a Carl Hiaasen caper.
The final ingredient, of course, to Hiaasen's Miami fare is the spice provided by his own distinctive, acerbic voice. At his best, Hiaasen is a red hot chili, inflamed with his passion, dismay and anger over Florida's endemic corruption, environmental destruction and cultural chaos. There was an indication in Bad Monkey, Hiaasen's previous novel and the first outing for restaurant hygiene inspector Andrew Yancy, that Hiaasen had rediscovered his voice after some sub-par (but still very funny) outings. Razor Girl confirms the return to form.
Andrew Yancy helps, just as previous regular Skink did in the earlier books. The weed-smoking former cop gives Hiaasen's story and his issues a point around which to coalesce and a voice with which to frame his views. Yancy's main interest is keeping his home's ocean view free from development, a crusade into which he puts a lot of himself. It is his dry observations of the people and the world around him give the book its bite as he plays the role of bewildered everyman commenting on Florida's excess and madness.
The supporting cast is as strong as ever. a mixture of the magnificent and macabre. There's something rather beautiful about Merry Mansfield's loyalty and maternal instinct despite her crotch-shaving scam and her growing rapport with Yancy is a feature of the book as it progresses. I also rather enjoyed the exuberant optimism of sand-entrepreneur Martin Trebeaux, the surprising sensitivity of NY mobster 'Big Noogie', to say nothing of fake redneck Buck Nance. The patriarch of the Bayou Brethren family, cast adrift in Key West after a disastrous, badly judged homophobic diatribe in a club, is the catalyst for the trouble after a local wannabe kills a Muslim cruise tourist as a result of breathing in the show's insidious racism. (plenty of space here for the airing of Hiaasen's antidote views to the current and disturbing Trumpian trend in the US)
Yancy spots the opportunity to solve the murder as another way to force his former chief to return his detective's shield and embarks on his own investigation.
The rest is classic Hiaasen, a fast-paced madcap caper that might seem unrealistic until you remember that the Floridian takes the vast majority of his inspiration from real events. It's thoroughly entertaining, genuinely funny and (of course, because it's probably mostly real or could be) just a little bit scary.