MANGROVE SQUEEZE by Lawrence Shames


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 Shames's latest installment of Key West criminal follies is diverting but not up to the high standards of Virgin Heat (1997). Aaron Katz, all too successful in mergers and acquisitions, has left Wall Street for Key West to try some things he's not very good atfixing up a guest house, taking care of his fading father Sam, and maybe restarting his sex life. The very first person he hits on, ever so deferentially, is Suki Sperakis, who's left New Jersey for Key West to work at a crummy jobselling advertising for the weekly Island Frigatewhile in search of the good life. Instrumental to Suki's vision of said life is ditching persistent suitor Lazslo Kalynin, a Russian ÇmigrÇ who thinks Suki is too stupid to see that his eight T-shirt stores must be a front for something. Lazslo's uncle, Gennady Petrovich Markov, and his colleague Ivan Fyodorovich Cherkassky have left Russia for Key West in search of easy money-laundering, criminal contacts, and some unspecified big dark score. Pineapple and Fred, who seem to have sprouted from the Key West beach like sand crabs, aren't looking for anything, though Piney does wonder about the big questions, like whether lizards have a sense of time. One day, Suki, who wouldn't mind being a reporter instead of an ad rep, asks panting Lazslo one question too many about his T-shirt income, and before you know it the plot has kicked into Carl Hiaasen territory. This time, though, the criminal intrigue that draws all these wackos together seems more dutiful than inspired; the wackos themselves aren't all that wacky (though Shames provides his share of bright moments); the crooks aren't dangerous enough to make you worry about the heroes; and the plot lacks the mad logic so necessary to farce. The result, compared to Hiaasen's (or Shames's) best, is positively austere: a handsome but disappointingly juiceless basket of grapefruit that'll leave you looking forward to next year's bushel. ($250,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: March 27th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7868-6301-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1998


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