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FLORIDA ROADKILL by Tim Dorsey

FLORIDA ROADKILL

By Tim Dorsey

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-16782-9
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

            Hilarious set pieces distinguish this otherwise sluggishly plotted contribution to Sunbelt Baroque, the genre epitomized by Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.

            Such stories are generally of the “only in Florida” sort and feature implausible plots quilted together with diverting wit but strained logic.  Newcomer Dorsey’s tale opens in Tampa.  Serge and his dim-witted partner, Coleman, are scam artists hustling through life on whatever schemes strike their fancy.  They’re joined by Sharon, a blazing babe with an atrocious coke habit, who maneuvers Dr. George Veale into a videotaped act in the backroom of a strip club.  Dentist Veale’s hands are insured for $5 million, and Serge and Coleman mutilate them with a chainsaw in exchange for their silence about the tape.  Although Veale gets the money, he conceals it in David and Sean’s car, two honest, standup guys vacationing through Florida, who take off from the club totally unaware of their fraudulent cargo.  The chase for the money is on, then, a pursuit that will include members of the Costa Gordon drug cartel, the New England Life and Casualty insurance company, a homophobic radio talk-show host, and other zany types you’d find only in Flor…well, enough said.  All parties converge on Miami, where Dorsey has organized events around the 1997 World Series, won there by the Florida Marlins.  The novel, though shuffles on long after the seventh game is over.  Much of the inessential plotting puts Serge and Coleman through more of their unpredictable paces.  While some of these scenes are quite funny – murder by Fix-A-Flat, encasement in shrinking jeans, and inverted alcohol poisoning – the reader may have to be reminded that there’s a story here waiting to finish up.

            Dorsey’s voice is laconic and distinctive.  And his management of single scenes is skillful.  Structural weaknesses and improbable coincidences aside, then:  an amusing beach read.