Book Reviews: A Well-Respected Dead Man by Tricia Allen and Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

A Well-Respected Dead ManA Well-Respected Dead Man      
Tricia Allen
Five Star, August 2003
ISBN 0786254416
Hardcover

Former prosecutor, David Weather, member of a prominent Dallas family, is living in hard times. Suspected corruption in his family has lead to his dismissal from the prosecutor’s office. Now, long time family friend and area gambling ruler, Willie Peabody, is dead, murdered, and David is a prime suspect.

The story, replete with unusual twists and turns and a truly clever resolution, is set against a real-life Texas disaster. In 1947, a ship docked at the Texas City seaport catches fire. Inadequate fire-fighting resources fail to stop the fire and when the freighter Grandcamp explodes, the real disaster is instant and widespread. From all over Texas, help and the curious flood to the seacoast. Meanwhile, as the line goes, back at the ranch….

Author Tricia Allen, in her second novel, has fashioned a real ripsnorter, populated with incredible, bizarre and wonderful creatures, not the least of which is Weather’s family. Grudges, feuding criminals, missing bank robbery money and Texas-style politics are judiciously blended by the author to make this a clever, enthralling novel. As big as all of Texas and twice as complex, where dead thugs are almost as revered as politicians.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Bad MonkeyBad Monkey
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf, June 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-27259-1
Hardcover

Here we have a crime novel from an established writer who demonstrates a tendency to aim well-considered darts at various and sundry established elements of our society, such as Medicare. In most cases, the author’s aim appears to be true, but he’s using a scatter-gun approach. Sometimes less is more. The novel has a simple plot at its core. A scammer who has taken the federal government for millions of dollars through a fairly elegant illegal operation in south Florida hangs it up when the Feds inquire begin to close in. His method of avoiding arrest is bizarre to say the least.

Meanwhile a reasonably competent Key West detective named Andrew Yancy, now demoted to restaurant inspector, formerly of the Miami Police Department, is tasked by the local sheriff to dispose of a human arm, brought up by a fishing boat off the keys. Seems like a simple task, right? Unfortunately for various law enforcement agencies in South Florida and the Bahama Islands, Yancy thinks there’s something fishy about the arm. And in spite of the distraction of a plethora of pulchritudinous, sexually available women, throwing themselves at Yancy’s feet he soldiers on, determined to bring a murderer to justice and get back his detective’s shield.

Hiaasen is a wonderful writer. He generates a rolling thunder of forward movement and then chucks a nasty wrench into the works that sends the story off in a seemingly totally different direction. He is clever and inventive. Yes, of course there are crimes, including murders and there are many strange and sometimes wonderful characters, effectively used—mostly—by the author to illuminate his concerns about the social milieu which he observes in often minute detail. Reading this book put me off restaurant meals for at least a week.

Yes, there is a monkey. A pet Capuchin, ill-trained, ill-mannered  and possessed of the worst temper and too many anti-social “skills.” The novel is by turns sweet, acidulous, slow, nasty, dark, hilarious, and confusing. Sometimes the pacing and cleverness are enough to take your breath away. Bad Monkey is essential Hiaasen.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.