It was an unexpected but pleasant surprise a few years ago to find that Dave Barry, whose column is read, laughed at, and enjoyed the world over by hundreds upon thousands of people, could actually write stories. But in his debut novel, Big Trouble, he proved just that. His follow up, Tricky Business, trails in the wake of 'Trouble'...literally. The story, about a casino cruise ship and those who come to find themselves upon it on a fateful 'dark and stormy night', has many of the same trappings that made Barry's first foray into fiction so well received. Here we have interesting characters (among them, the dysfunctional members of a band called Johnny and the Contusions, a few fed-up cocktail waitresses, and an endearing pair of nursing home rebellers - Arnie and Phil), a plot that twists, turns, and eventually comes together in a way that will make you smack your head in amazement when you finally realize what's really going on.
The only real departure in this book is the violence that Barry inflicts on some of the characters we become attached to. While every character in Big Trouble survived to the end of the book, the body count in Tricky Business is fairly high, sometimes even used as a dark joke (as is the case with some unfortunate workers at the fictious Newspex Nine news station). It is at the same time appropriate to the story and disturbing. One almost expects Barry to resurrect his fallen characters at some point before the end - though he never does. This is, however, a small bone to pick with a book that is laugh-out-loud funny and just as entertaining as anything else Barry has come up with.
And, if you're a fan of Dave's style, that's saying a lot.