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on 19 August 2004
Why has it been three full years since Hiassen has written a novel for adults when he can churn out stuff this good?
The story of Joey, Stranhan, Chaz and Tool is right up there among the best that Hiaasen has ever produced, with a great set of characters who make an everlasting impression on the reader. The initial plot is almost (but not quite) farcical but works brilliantly because of Hiaasen's characterisation and humour. A novel about how to get revenge on those who wrong us; brilliantly executed as only Hiassen can.
I couldn't wait until October for this to be published in the UK and bought a copy from the United States... I'm so glad I did. It's my book of the year! Buy it!
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I strongly encourage you NOT to read either the jacket blurb or most reviews of this book. For some reason, people seem to want to give away most of this story to nonreaders. If you do read the spoilers, you will probably only think this a three or four star book . . . yet it is really a tour de force if you let Mr. Hiaasen work his magic without any preconceptions about the story.
As the book opens, Chaz and Joey Perrone are enjoying their second wedding anniversary by taking a cruise that is about to return them to Port Lauderdale. But there's a problem! Despite experiencing great sexual energy, Joey finds herself unexpectedly not enjoying the bliss that such a trip might suggest. Clearly, something's very wrong with her marriage . . . and she doesn't have a clue!
The rest of the book develops for her the reasons why Chaz married her and why the marriage suddenly soured for him. Once she realizes what's been going on, she also wants revenge. What ensues is one of the funniest and most original turning-of-the-tables you can imagine. In the process, Joey learns a lot about herself and what she really wants from life.
As usual, Mr. Hiaasen draws imaginatively on the themes of how greed and self-interest cause people to lead artificial lives that threaten both the environment . . . and ultimately all of us. There's a brilliant symbol involving a deformed snake that makes this book haunting as well as humorous. Snakes also play symbolic roles in other parts of the story. Remember the garden of Eden whenever you read about a snake in this book.
The book does a superb job of helping many of its characters develop and grow based on their experiences. I thought that the evolution of the character named "Tool" was especially well done. Tool goes from being someone who blindly follows orders to someone who takes responsibility for his choices, and makes better ones than those who have been ordering him around. Joey, Ricca, Corbett, Karl, and Chaz also experience meaningful changes as they come to appreciate what they have done.
For long-time fans of Mr. Hiaasen's writing, you will be pleased to meet two old friends in this book.
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on 12 September 2004
One of the more satisfying discoveries for a dedicated crime and mystery reader like myself is the subgenre of humorous hardboiled crime. As paradoxical as it sounds, the combination of strong criminal themes and farce make for some very entertaining books. Elmore Leonard is a master as is Donald Westlake but the most consistently comical and original, in my opinion, is Carl Hiaasen. In SKINNY DIP, Hiaasen has once again presented us with a highly unlikely, yet hugely entertaining story, thrown in an array of unique characters resulting in a very fast-paced and enjoyable book.
When Joey Perrone is thrown overboard while cruising on a luxury liner off the Florida coast, she is too surprised to scream. At the time she was celebrating her second wedding anniversary and the main source of her shock came from the fact that it was her husband, Chaz who did the throwing. The thing that really has her perplexed is that this is the first sign that Chaz was less than happy with their marriage.
Joey is fortunate enough to grab hold of a passing bale of marijuana that happened to be floating by and manages to hold on until she is saved by Mick Shanahan. Shanahan is an ex-cop who has escaped the troubles of civilisation and now minds an island for a rich old Mexican author, giving him the solitude he enjoys. When he picks up Joey and hears her story he is all for calling the police and having Chaz arrested. Joey is not so eager, knowing the uncanny ability her husband has had at avoiding prosecution in the past. Besides, she still doesn't know why her husband tried to kill her, so she'd like to satisfy her curiosity and maybe get a little payback along the way - and it's the payback that provides a good deal of the entertainment.
Meanwhile, Chaz is doing his best impersonation of a grieving husband, distraught by the prospect of his wife falling overboard and either drowning or being eaten by a shark. From the very start we understand that Chaz is a disagreeable, self absorbed man, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the man is also an incompetent fool and we get to delight in the way his world falls apart thanks to his foolishness.
While he thinks he has committed the perfect murder, Detective Karl Rolvaag is more than a little suspicious and investigates strenuously, or at least, he does until Chaz's boss, a wealthy and therefore influential man, pressures the police department to show a little less enthusiasm. Of course, this doesn't sit well with Rolvaag at all and his efforts redouble in response.
Due to Chaz's incompetence, his boss assigns a bodyguard to watch over him, introducing us to my favourite character of the book, Tool. Tool is a hulking behemoth of a man simply covered from tip to toe in hair. He has a dependency on painkillers and a hobby of collecting roadside accident markers. It turns out he is wonderfully insightful - in a hairy, hulking behemothy sort of way - and turns out to have a touchingly soft side. Sure he's a drug dependent killer, but he is also stole every scene he was in.
This is a wildly amusing story with multiple storylines that careen toward each other resulting in a tremendous crescendo. Joey and Mick play out their revenge plot, Rolvaag plays his likable, competent detective role while Chaz doggedly digs himself deeply into trouble without ever being aware of how out of control his life has become.
Carl Hiaasen consistently produces highly amusing stories set in Florida and this is another fine example. His characters range from mildly offbeat (his police detective Karl Rolvaag is an excellent example) to outrageously out of control (and here I'm talking about Tool). Slipped in among the light tone and humorous attitude of the story, Hiaasen stealthily inserts his environmental messages. Although they are added with a derisive tone to them, they are obviously heartfelt comments about the way parts of Florida are being decimated through overdevelopment or just plain irresponsible human habitation. The clever thing about Hiaasen's environmental comment is that he doesn't take it so far as to feel as though he is preaching to us.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 February 2016
"Skinny Dip" is a black comedy and crime story by Carl Hiaasen, author of "StripTease" and many other novels. TRY NOT TO READ THE BACK COVER or dust jacket flap until you have finished the book because in some editions the book description by the publishers contains a major spoiler.

The story is mostly set in Florida and although it is almost entirely a work of fiction, an author's note says that the one element of fact in the story is the description of the ecological devastation man has wrought on the Florida Everglades and the efforts being made to repair the damage.

As the book begins the heroine, Joey Perrone, is involuntarily taking the Skinny Dip of the title, having been thrown overboard from a luxury liner by her husband in what should have been the perfect murder. Her clothes are ripped off when she hits the water, leaving Joey naked in shark-infested water, an eight hour swim from the nearest land, at night when attracting the attention of any passing ships will be almost impossible.

Joey's first challenge will be to survive and even for the college swimming champion she once was, that will be a tall order. If she lives, her next challenge will be to find out why her handsome but useless, immoral rat of a husband wanted to murder her.

The villain of this story Dr Chaz Perrone (PhD) is very similar to most of the villains of Carl Hiaasen novels in that he is a miserable excuse for a human being whose total lack of morals is only matched by his utter incompetence and who keeps getting himself into ridiculous situations which serve him right. Indeed, Chaz Perrone is one of Hiaasen's funniest villains and that is saying something.

Figuring out Chaz Perrone's motive for the murder attempt is a significant part of the plot, and therefore it was in my opinion a serious spoiler on the part of the publishers of my copy of this book, which was the Wheeler large print edition, to put that motive on the back cover.

Mick Stranahan, the main protagonist of Hiaasen's third novel Skin Tight, returns as a major character in "Skinny Dip" and there are references or cameo appearances in this book for a number of the other characters of that one.

This is a very funny and entertaining novel if you have a fairly dark sense of humour and a love of the ridiculous.
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on 5 April 2006
I am on the penultimate audio tape of this great story and I can't wait until the end to tell you how happy Carl Hiaasen has made me, listening to this story, the last few days.
Problem is I keep laughing out loud; I'm wondering if people around me think I'm as bonkers as some of the people in Carl's story. I'm sure my husband is cursing at night when I'm listening to this story in bed - am I keeping him awake?
You know the world is a sad old place sometimes and we all, eventually, have a lot to bear as we travel through life. To have the ability to make people laugh, and be as happy as I feel listening to this story, is a great reward, I hope, for Carl Hiaasen.
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on 5 September 2004
Having read most of the Brookmyre catalogue I was steered onto Hiaasen by a co-worker. Working in a bookshop and having no money (not linked...) I found a proof of this in the staff room and decided to give it a go (hey...it was free)
As this is the only Hiaasen I've read I can only review it as a book on its own and I was very impressed. It took a few chapters to get me involved but after finding out Joey (the wife pushed off the ship) was still alive and her devious plans to basically mess-up her husband it suddenly got very interesting.
Extremely creative plot with many twists and the most random characters you can find, who each have their own stories which eventually become one, from a suspicious python-loving detective to what only can be described as an ape-man with a liking for painkillers.
As with Brookmyre and other Hiaasen's, an important part of the book is the injection of humour, which Skinny Dip does not fail to deliver. I have to say some of the funniest incidents and comments come from the numerous times the husband Chad decides to dabble in viagra, usually at the worst times. I was also laughing out loud at a certain point which makes you question an alligators motive when seeming to be looking for a kill.....
....an interesting insight into alligator genitalia....
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on 22 March 2006
As she is pushed off the cruise ship, Joey Perrone has no clue why her husband wants her dead. Joey survives the dive in the Gulf Stream and is rescued by an ex-detective, Mick Stranahan. Together, they cook up a satisfying revenge for her conceited husband, Chaz. His self-indulgence and fascination with sex is absolutely comical! Chaz deserves everything that happens to him. This was one of the most enjoyable, well-written, and hilarious books I’ve read in a long time. My only criticism is that Hiaasen's tirades about the treatment of animals and the Everglades, on every other page, become quite trite. That said, it is Hiaasen’s well-developed characters that make this an excellent read. I can't wait to read another Hiassen novel.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2004
Fans of Carl Hiaasen will not be surprised to find that this book re-visits his usual (related) topics of environmental and ecological damage in Florida, and the apparent corruption of just about anyone in any position of authority. It will also be no surprise to find a character who is not too bright, hooked on prescription drugs and whose behaviour gets increasingly bizarre.
New readers might be pleasantly surprised to find that ecological vandalism and political and business corruption can be treated so hilariously. Although I personally prefer reading an author's books in the order they were written, someone could read this as an introduction to Carl Hiassen without any problem at all: all they would miss would be the warm glow of recognition when Skink makes a brief cameo appearance.
When I mentioned the corruption of anyone in authority, I forgot that there is an important exception. In Hiassen's books the Police, Coast Guard and similar organisations are not protrayed as corrupt but more as people who have recognised the futility of trying to win the war and get scraps of satisfaction from winning small battles.
In this case the corrution is supplied by a scientist who fakes water test results so that a tomato grower can continue to flood the everglades with fertilisers. The policeman has one eye on a transfer to Minnesota where the people and climate are more to his tastes. The skinny dip of the title is taken by the scientist's wife when he throws her off a cruise ship in a murder attempt.
Unfortunately (for the husband) the wife doesn't die, but she is not going to let her husband know this, figuring that her revenge is much more interesting if he thinks she is dead.
Anyone who has visited Florida on holiday, or is thinking of it, should read at least one Carl Hiassen novel to get an idea of events and issues that might not be apparent to the average tourist. And also to just have a good laugh. Its worth reading for the viagra overdose alone!
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on 27 April 2012
I stopped reading Hiaasen a few years ago when I became a bit bored with the style, which I felt was becoming a bit hackneyed. What do you call his books? Novels? Thrillers? Crime capers? Piss takes? He seemed to be a bit like what Elmore Leonard would have become if he'd chosen the career of a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, a failed one. Hiassen was always slightly amusing, but seldom laugh out loud funny.
A recent holiday in Florida brought me back to this novel, and it was a welcome return despite the fact that my opinions, if anything, have been cemented. I'm enjoying the book, but "crime caper" seems to me to be the best way I can describe it. It's not hilarious, not hard-boiled and, if anything, is a lighthearted pass-time (if a story of murder, deceit, and blackmail can be lighthearted, of course!) I like to think that Hiaasen writes for his own amusement and the fact that some of us join in is a nice bonus for him. He has a "real" career as a journalist with the Miami Herald anyway.
To the book. Plot straightforward, characters mostly likeable, setting appealing from a rainy London point of view. It was about a hundred pages too long, and I found myself voicing an oft repeated plea of "Get on with it!". Otherwise I might have given four stars for the review. The book did enough to make me think I will go back to Carl Hiassen in future, especially when I'm pining for the sunshine of Miami and the Keys, and I'm pleased about that. In these Kindle days, with about fifty unread books clamouring for possibly undeserved attention, it's good to have standby authors you can rely on.
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on 30 August 2006
Crime and comedy all rolled into one great book. Another of my quick reads. It's the story of a woman who's pushed overboard by her truely revolting husband with the hope of getting his hands on her fortune...disasterous consequences for him as the wife that he thinks is dead comes back from the deep to take revenge! Funny and entertaining, a good read.
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