Cherry Pye is a hugely popular (and talentless) recording and touring artist. Her frequent bouts of `gastritis' (actually the result of drug and drugs-fuelled binges) require frequent periods of short-term recuperation and/or medical attention. To divert the paparazzi, and hence protect her earning potential, it's necessary for actress Ann DeLucia to act as her `stunt double' on these occasions.
Unfortunately one paparazzo - the reprehensible Claude `Bang' Abbott - kidnaps Ann for an exclusive photo shoot in the mistaken belief that she is the real thing. This action triggers a series of uproarious events, with sub-plots aplenty amid all the malarkey.
`Star Island' is full of Hiaasen's usual weirdoes, whack-jobs, damaged goons and chancers, with their madcap schemes and utterly selfish and greedy motivations. Almost everyone is out for what they can get and few have any redeeming qualities.
`Bang' Abbott, the overweight paparazzo with personal hygiene issues, is a particularly amusing character, as is the appalling `Chemo' - the huge, facially scarred individual hired as Cherry's bodyguard. He has a prosthetic arm consisting of a yard trimmer (or weed whacker) following partial limb removal by a marlin, and he wields this as an effective tool of persuasion.
Regular Hiaasen character Skink, the militant, unhinged, ecoteur (aka Clinton Tyree - a former governor of Florida) is back in his biggest ever role. Blessed with a beautiful set of gleaming teeth, a bald pate - with two ludicrous pseudo-dreads - and an unerring moral compass, he's still living off roadkill, and after encountering the lovely Ann he comes to a touching and sympathetic understanding with her. These two are also, not coincidentally, the only characters in the book with decent old-fashioned values.
The author highlights the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry and the cult of celebrity - with its reliance on pure spin in lieu of actual talent. And once again he exposes and deals with the crooked politicians and land developers who have despoiled the Florida Keys and Everglades, killing off wildlife by destroying their habitation. Through his regular newspaper columns and books, Carl Hiaasen has become the de facto environmental spokesperson for his beloved home state, and, as always, serious ecological concerns lie at the beating heart of this novel. But fear not, he's never preachy, and he wraps everything up beautifully to present us with an hilarious and entertaining package.
Hiaasen wrote the blueprint for the modern, satirical, comic crime novel and he hits his targets with the practiced eye of a seasoned sniper, never laying it on too thick, merely allowing the absurd characters and situations to make his points for him. His regular readers can therefore rest assured that it's very much business as usual here, with the author presenting his customary mix of satire and sardonic observation. It's because so much familiar ground is covered that I've not given it the full five stars. However, if you've never read him before, try reading John McCrorie's review elsewhere on this page, where he indicates that this novel turned him into an instant fan of the great man's work.