Florida’s preeminent satirist returns from a YA excursion (Hoot, 2002) to ask the eternal question: What happens when the wife you’ve killed isn’t dead?
Joey Perrone can’t imagine why her husband married her or why he wanted to kill her. But it’s too late to ask now that Joey’s struggling to stay afloat several stories below the ship deck he pushed her from during their anniversary cruise. She doesn’t know that Chaz was afraid his wife had discovered that he was nothing but big-ticket farmer Red Hammernut’s “biostute,” a State of Florida biological inspector who was faking the results of phosphate testing in order to give Red’s mega-polluting farm a clean bill of health. Now that she’s presumed dead, Joey and Mick Stranahan, the State’s Attorney’s investigator who’s been pensioned off to the middle of nowhere so that he can rescue her, have all the time in the world to figure out why Chaz wanted to get rid of Joey and what naughty games he’s been up to. Their interventions soon escalate from creepy pranks against the grieving widower to a blackmail demand backed up by a faked video of the murder. Meanwhile, Det. Karl Rolvaag, the investigator who’s counting the days till he can leave South Florida and return to frigid Minnesota, develops suspicions of his own about Ricca Spillman, the stylist who’s been solacing Chaz. And Earl Edward O’Toole, the apelike minder Hammernut has hung around Chaz’s neck, begins to move beyond inarticulate resentment at the bullet lodged in his butt-crease when he’s befriended by an elderly cancer patient whose Fentanyl patch he’s swiping. The crew is rounded out by the usual cargo of zanies, with Hiaasen’s signature attention to nonhuman members of the cast.
“I had a feeling he didn’t love me any more,” muses bobbing Joey, “but this is ridiculous.” It’s also bitingly satirical, sublimely zany, and deeply satisfying.