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Book review: <i>Skinny Dip</i> by Carl Hiaasen

the cover of the book

Joey Perrone wants revenge on her husband for trying to kill her for no good reason. Her husband, Chaz, wants to get rich and stay that way, by keeping his dirty little un-environmental secret. Can Joey get her husband back and save what's left of the Florida Everglades?

The story

Joey Perrone was having a lovely evening really; on a cruise ship celebrating her second anniversary with Chaz, her husband. Sure, he'd been a bit of a pain, but his suggestion of a moonlit stroll was all very romantic until he grabbed her by the ankles and flipped her overboard.

The perfect crime.

Unfortunately, Chaz had forgotten that Joey was an excellent swimmer and generally tenacious person, and with a little luck and a renegade plastic wrapped bale of marijuana there to assist Joey, she found herself rescued by reclusive ex-cop Mick Stanahan.

Joey's not quite sure why it was that Chaz attempted to have her knocked off. None of the reasons she can think of are compelling enough. But now it's happened, she's determined to find out why. And, even better, to make him pay... particularly seeing as, for all intents and purposes, she's dead. So she enlists the help of the reluctant Mick.

Chaz has problems of his own. He has a demanding mistress, an unofficial employer called Red Hammernut who's making all kinds of demands, documents to fake about the amount of poison Red's farms are pumping into the Everglades, and now, a nosy detective called Karl Rolvaag is watching his every move because of Joey. And Chaz just isn't smart enough to cope with it all.

Joey and Mick have to try and figure out what's going on, and cook up a plan to get Chaz and get him good, while saving the Everglades in the process. But with so many people after Chaz, it's pretty difficult to get a look in...

The style

I found Skinny Dip to be a rollicking good read. Written in the third person limited from a variety of points of view, each character was given a convincing voice and just the right element of light-hearted humour. The plot twisted frequently enough that the reading experience was fully engaging, and the happenings in the book - starting with Joey getting turfed off the cruise liner in the first place - were outlandish enough to be fun but not over the top. The whole read was pretty amusing, and the threads of the story were well crafted and came together nicely at the end.

Joey was probably the least outlandish character - she was a fairly determined individual, with a nice personality, but she didn't have the freakish qualities that most of the other characters had. She and the detective, Rolvaag, balanced out the strangeness of the other characters, which was a good call really, as most of the other characters were pretty strange. They managed to be bursting with life, odd to their very cores, and personify certain elements of American life without being stereotypical, which is a mean feat.

All in all, fun and compelling holiday reading.

Who is this book for?

Good for a light hearted, easy to read holiday story, or even a commuter book. Although it probably won't last very long, because it's so easy to read.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Carl Hiaasen has written several other books, all about environmental issues in Florida, to my knowledge. I particularly enjoyed Hoot, his story for young adult readers, and Skinny Dip is probably my favourite of his books that I've read. For some other environmentally conscious books, try Ben Elton.

In short

Title: Skinny Dip
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Publisher: Warner Books
ISBN: 0446695564
Year published: 2004
Pages: 355
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: