I’m a fan of Carl Hiaasen’s books. He’s the world expert on the crime comedy genre: fast, energetic stories filled with sharp humour, engaging characters and good guys triumphing, always set in his beloved Florida.
His latest book, Squeeze Me, has all the above ingredients, and it rips along in his regular fashion, as a thriller is meant to do (for more about thrillers in general, and my favourite ones in particular see https://brookandthebook.com/2020/11/26/my-5-favourite-thrillers/)
However, there’s an ingredient in this one that is quite the diversion from his normal procedure, and I have to admit I don’t think it worked as well as the rest of the book.
First, the scenario: Angie Armstrong is an expert wildlife handler, called on by the residents anywhere near the luxury resorts of Palm Beach when a raccoon breaks into their kitchen and gorges itself on junk food, or a possum is hiding in their riding boots. Or, when a Burmese python is found on the grounds of a mansion after a fund-raiser at which a small, elderly and very rich woman has mysteriously disappeared. The python has a bulge about the size of said small, rich person.
Those at the mansion are concerned about retaining future fund-raisers on site and say nothing to Angie about a missing person, so she assumes the python has eaten more normal prey. But once she tells the staff there that the snake (now headless) will need to go to a scientific testing site, they know the news will get out. A pair of bungling criminals are sent to raid Angie’s house, and then her storage lock-up, to steal the python.
This is where it gets complicated! The python stealers accidentally lose the headless snake on a road causing a hold-up to the motorcade carrying … the President’s wife. Yes, characters in this book are an unnamed US president and his wife. The president is a man who spends a lot of his time in Florida, plays golf rather than work in the Oval Office, launches policy from his Twitter account and has an agenda against Hispanic immigrants. No, I couldn’t work out who they were talking about either.
To me, this was a weak element in the book. The gentleman concerned has a style that has been said to be beyond lampooning. No matter how outrageously you portray him, he’ll only go on and do something more outrageous in real life. Hiaasen has included fictional Florida politicians in his books before, and a more fictional politician would have worked better here, I feel.
Anyway, the story proceeds, with Angie trying to achieve justice for the Hispanic immigrant wrongly arrested for killing the woman, while working with local police and US security officials who can agree with her in private but find their hands are tied in public. If you have read a few of Hiaasen’s books, you won’t be too surprised at how the story arrives at a resolution, but you will certainly be entertained along the way.
If you’ve never read Carl Hiaasen before, I’d start with one of his earlier books such as Skinny Dip or Nature Girl but Squeeze Me is a really fun read whether you’ve read all his books or you’re just starting out. There will be someone in your family that would love this as a Christmas gift – just make sure you also get to read it yourself!