Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BIG TROUBLE by Dave Barry


by Dave Barry

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1999
ISBN: 0-399-14567-2
Publisher: Putnam

In his first-ever novel, prolific humorist Barry (Dave Barry Turns 50, 1998, etc.) proves just how easy it is, or at least how easy he can make it seem, for any zany with Miami connections to master what he artlessly calls “the Bunch of South Florida Wackos genre.” Here’s the scoop. Matt Arnold, the high-school son of an unsuccessful advertising man, wants to assassinate his classmate Jenny Herk, as per the rules of the Killer game they’re both playing, by shooting her with a water pistol. Jenny’s father Arthur, embezzling executive and bagman for a ludicrously corrupt construction business, is also the target of a pair of killers who are packing more serious heat. Both executions are about to be witnessed by Puggy, an oblivious drifter whose low-impact job at the Jolly Jackal bar has connected him to gadabout Russian arms dealers who’ve recently assumed possession of a really heavy suitcase filled with something that looks like a garbage disposal with a 45-minute timer. The FBI is interested in the Jolly Jackals; the Miami police are interested in the assassination attempts; and the kingdom of allegedly lower animals also plays an active role. Roger the dog thinks of every encounter with the human community in terms of a possible meal; a poisonous toad lives only to eat from Roger’s food dish; and a cobra named Daphne will play a timely role several bumps down the road. Barry juggles this ship of fools with a genial ease and a disarming lack of tension that suggest, maybe not Carl Hiassen, but the sweeter disposition of Laurence Shames. The big surprise is how readily adaptable Barry’s jokey rhythms are to the demands of creating characters and spinning them a farcical plot. But a host of lesser surprises are equally welcome. (First printing of 150,000; Literary Guild featured alternate; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)