South Florida’s master farceur takes enough off his trademark loony tunes (Sick Puppy, 2000, etc.) to fit some, though not all, the laughs into a whodunit.
The corpse is the late James Bradley Stomarti, a.k.a. Jimmy Stoma, the long-ago rocker whose fame, years after he fronted the Slut Puppies, is so great that Courtney Love and the Van Halen brothers turn out for his funeral. So does Jack Tagger, banished from the Union-Register investigative team to the obituary desk after he told off the paper’s greedy new owner in front of the shareholders. Jack has succeeded in getting enough material from Jimmy’s widow, one-hit singer Cleo Rio, to file the very first obit on the one-time star. Unfortunately, much of the material seems to be untrue, or at least suggestively incomplete. Jimmy wasn’t producing the new album Cleo’s been plugging at every opportunity, insists his sister, Janet Thrush, but working on his own comeback record. And there are some peculiar discrepancies about Jimmy’s scuba-diving death in the Bahamas. Before Jack can get Janet to request a full autopsy on Jimmy, though, Cleo’s had his body cremated. Still curious, Jack digs up Jimmy’s diving partner, fellow Slut Puppy alum Jay Burns; hours later, as if on cue, Burns is dead. Is somebody trying to wipe out the whole band? Reluctantly aided by his gung-ho editor, comely Emma Cole, Jack presses on, and is soon attacked for his trouble by a thug he fends off with the frozen corpse of Colonel Tom, his late pet lizard—one of the many funny trimmings here that don’t have very much to do with the story.
The giggles throughout, in fact, are authentic, but this time the crazies only nibble at the edges of the dutiful detective story instead of disporting themselves smack into the middle of things, as they’ve done in Hiaasen’s more inspired crime comedies.