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Clinging blindly to a bale of Jamaican pot, Joey Perrone is plucked from the ocean by former cop and current loner Mick Stranahan. Instead of rushing to the police and reporting her husband’s crime, Joey decides to stay dead and (with Mick’s help) screw with Chaz until he screws himself.
As Joey haunts and taunts her homicidal husband, as Chaz’s cold-blooded cohorts in pollution grow uneasy about his ineptitude and increasingly erratic behavior, as Mick Stranahan discovers that six failed marriages and years of island solitude haven’t killed the reckless romantic in him, we’re taken on a hilarious, full-throttle, pure Hiaasen ride through the warped politics and mayhem of the human environment, and the human heart.
At the stroke of eleven on a cool April night, a woman named Joey Perrone went overboard from a luxury deck of the cruise liner M.V. Sun Duchess. Plunging toward the dark Atlantic, Joey was too dumbfounded to panic.
I married an asshole, she thought, knifing headfirst into the waves.
The impact tore off her silk skirt, blouse, panties, wristwatch and sandals, but Joey remained conscious and alert. Of course she did. She had been co-captain of her college swim team, a biographical nugget that her husband obviously had forgotten.
Bobbing in its fizzy wake, Joey watched the gaily lit Sun Duchess continue steaming away at twenty nautical miles per hour. Evidently only one of the other 2,049 passengers was aware of what had happened, and he wasn’t telling anybody.
Bastard, Joey thought.
She noticed that her bra was down around her waist, and she wriggled free of it. To the west, under a canopy of soft amber light, the coast of Florida was visible. Joey began to swim.
The water of the Gulf Stream was slightly warmer than the air, but a brisk northeasterly wind had kicked up a messy and uncomfortable chop. Joey paced herself. To keep her mind off sharks, she replayed the noteworthy events of the week-long cruise, which had begun almost as unpromisingly as it had ended.
The Sun Duchess had departed Port Everglades three hours late because a raccoon had turned up berserk in the pastry kitchen. One of the chefs had wrestled the frothing critter into a sixty-gallon tin of guava custard before it had shredded the man’s jowls and humped snarling to the depths of the ship. A capture team from Broward Animal Control had arrived, along with health inspectors and paramedics. Evacuated passengers were appeased with rum drinks and canapés.
Later, while reboarding, Joey had passed the Animal Control officers trudging empty-handed down the gangplank.
“I bet they couldn’t catch it,” she’d whispered to her husband. Despite the inconvenience caused by the raccoon, she’d found herself rooting for the addled little varmint.
“Rabies,” her husband had said knowingly. “Damn thing lays a claw on me, I’ll own this frigging cruise line.”
“Oh, please, Chaz.”
“From then on, you can call me Onassis. Think I’m kidding?”
The Sun Duchess was 855 feet long and weighed a shade more than seventy thousand tons. Joey had learned this from a brochure she’d found in their stateroom. The itinerary included Puerto Rico, Nassau and a private Bahamian island that the cruise lines had purchased (rumor had it) from the widow of a dismembered heroin trafficker. The last port of call before the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale was to be Key West.
Chaz had selected the cruise himself, claiming it was a present for their wedding anniversary. The first evening he’d spent on the fantail, slicing golf balls into the ocean. Initially Joey had been annoyed that the Sun Duchess would offer a driving range, much less a fake rock-climbing wall and squash courts. She and Chaz could have stayed in Boca and done all that.
No less preposterous was the ship’s tanning parlor, which received heavy traffic whenever the skies turned overcast. The cruise company wanted every passenger to return home with either a bronze glow or a crimson burn, proof of their seven days in the tropics.
As it turned out, Joey wound up scaling the rock wall and tak- ing full advantage of the other amenities, even the two-lane bowling alley. The alternative was to eat and drink herself sick, gluttony being the principal recreation aboard cruise liners. The Sun Duchess was renowned for its twenty-four-hour surf-and-turf buffets, and that’s how Joey’s husband had spent the hours between ports.
Pig, she thought, submerging to shed a clot of seaweed that had wrapped around her neck like a sodden yule garland.
Each day’s sunrise had brought a glistening new harbor, yet the towns and straw markets were drearily similar, as if designed and operated by a franchise. Joey had earnestly tried to be charmed by the native wares, though many appeared to have been crafted in Singapore or South Korea. And what would one do with a helmet conch clumsily retouched with nail polish? Or a coconut husk bearing a hand-painted likeness of Prince Harry?
So grinding was the role of tourist that Joey had found herself looking forward to visiting the ship’s “unspoiled private island,” as it had been touted in the brochure. Yet that, too, proved dispiriting. The cruise line had mendaciously renamed the place Rapture Key while making only a minimal effort at restoration. Roosters, goats and feral hogs were the predominant fauna, having outlasted the smuggler who had been raising them for banquet fare. The island’s sugar-dough flats were pocked with hulks of sunken drug planes, and the only shells to be found along the tree-shorn beach were of the .45-caliber variety.
“I’m gonna rent a Jet Ski,” Chaz had cheerily decreed.
“I’ll try to find some shade,” Joey had said, “and finish my book.”
The distance between them remained wide and unexplored. By the time the Sun Duchess had reached Key West, Joey and Chaz were spending only about one waking hour a day together, an interval usually devoted to either sex or an argument. It was pretty much the same schedule they kept at home.
So much for the romantic latitudes, Joey had thought, wishing she felt sadder than she did.
When her husband had scampered off to “check out the action” at Mallory Square, she briefly considered seducing one of the cabin attendants, a fine Peruvian brute named Tico. Ultimately Joey had lost the urge, dismissing the crestfallen young fellow with a peck on the chin and a fifty-dollar tip. She didn’t feel strongly enough about Chaz to cheat on him even out of spite, although she suspected he’d cheated on her often (and quite possibly during the cruise).
Upon returning to the Sun Duchess, Chaz had been as chatty as a cockatoo on PCP.
“See all those clouds? It’s about to rain,” he’d proclaimed with a peculiar note of elation.
“I guess that means no golf tonight,” Joey had said.
“Hey, I counted twenty-six T-shirt shops on Duval Street. No wonder Hemingway blew his brains out.”
“That wasn’t here,” Joey had informed him. “That was in Idaho.”
“How about some chow? I could eat a whale.”
At dinner Chaz had kept refilling Joey’s wineglass, over her protests. Now she understood why.
She felt it, too, that dehydrated alcohol fatigue. She’d been kicking hard up the crests of the waves and then breast-stroking down the troughs, but now she was losing both her rhythm and stamina. This wasn’t the heated Olympic pool at UCLA; it was the goddamn Atlantic Ocean. Joey scrunched her eyelids to dull the saltwater burn.
I had a feeling he didn’t love me anymore, she thought, but this is ridiculous.
Chaz Perrone listened for a splash but heard nothing except the deep lulling rumble of the ship’s engines. Head cocked slightly, he stood at the rail as solitary and motionless as a heron.
He hadn’t planned to toss her here. He had hoped to do it earlier in the voyage, somewhere between Nassau and San Juan, with the expectation that the currents would carry her body into Cuban waters, safely out of U.S. jurisdiction.
If the bull sharks didn’t find her first.
Unfortunately, the weather had been splendid during that early leg of the cruise, and every night the outside decks were crowded with moony-eyed couples. Chaz’s scheme required seclusion and he’d nearly abandoned hope, when the rain arrived, three hours after leaving Key West. It was only a drizzle, but Chaz knew it would drive the tourists indoors, stampeding for the lobster salad and electronic poker machines.
The second crucial element of his plot was surprise, Joey being a physically well-tuned woman and Chaz himself being somewhat softer and out of shape. Before luring her toward the stern of the Sun Duchess under the ruse of a starlit stroll, he’d made certain that his wife had consumed plenty of red wine; four and a half glasses, by his count. Two was usually enough to make her drowsy.
“Chaz, it’s sprinkling,” she had observed as they approached the rail.
Naturally she’d been puzzled, knowing how her husband despised getting wet. The man owned no less than seven umbrellas.
Pretending not to hear her, he had guided Joey forward by the elbow. “My stomach’s a disaster. I think it’s time they retired that seviche, don’t you?”
“Let’s go back inside,” Joey had suggested.
From a pocket of his blue blazer Chaz had surreptitiously removed the key to their stateroom and let it fall to the polished planks at his feet. “Oops.”
“Chaz, it’s getting chilly out here.”
“I think I dropped our key,” he’d said, stooping to find it. Or so Joey had assumed.
He could only guess what had shot through his wife’s mind when she’d felt him grab her ankles. He’s gotta be kidding, is what she’d probably thought.
The act itself was a rudimentary exercise in leverage, really, flipping her backward over the rail. It had happened so fast, she hadn’t made a peep.
As for the splash, Chaz would have preferred to hear it; a soft punctuation to the marriage and the crime. Then again, it was a long way down to the water.
He allowed himself a brief glance, but saw only whitecaps and foam in the roiling reflection of the ship’s lights. The Sun Duchess kept moving, which was a relief. No Klaxons sounded.
Chaz picked up the key and hurried to the stateroom, bolting the door behind him. After hanging up his blazer, he opened another bottle of wine, poured some into two glasses and drank half of each.
Joey’s suitcase lay open for re-packing, and Chaz moved it from the bed to the floor. He splayed his own travel bag and went foraging for an antacid. Beneath a stack of neatly folded boxers—Joey was a champion packer, he had to admit—Chaz came upon a box wrapped in tartan-style gift paper with green ribbon.
Inside the box was a gorgeous set of leather golf-club covers that were embossed with his initials, C.R.P. There was also a card: “Happy 2nd Anniversary! Love always, Joey.”
Admiring the silken calfskin sheaths, Chaz felt a knot of remorse in his gut. It passed momentarily, like acid reflux.
His wife had class, no doubt about it. If only she hadn’t been so damn . . . observant.
In exactly six hours he would report her missing.
Chaz stripped to his underwear and lobbed his clothes in a corner. Packed inside his carry-on was a paperback edition of Madame Bovary, which he opened randomly and placed for effect on the nightstand by Joey’s side of the bed.
Then Charles Regis Perrone set his alarm clock, laid his head on the pillow and went to sleep.
The Gulf Stream carried Joey northward at almost four knots. She knew she’d have to swim harder if she didn’t want to end up bloated and rotting on some sandbar in North Carolina.
But, Lord, she was tired.
Had to be the wine. Chaz knew she wasn’t much of a drinker, and obviously he’d planned it all in advance. Probably hoped that the fall from the ship would break her legs or knock her unconscious, and if it didn’t, so what? She’d be miles from land in a pitching black ocean, and scared shitless. Nobody would find her even if they went looking, and she’d drown from exhaustion before daylight.
That’s what Chaz probably figured.
He hadn’t forgotten about her glory days at UCLA, either, Joey realized. He knew she would start swimming, if she somehow survived the fall. In fact, he was counting on her to swim; betting that his stubborn and prideful wife would wear herself out when she should have tucked into a floating position and conserved her strength until sunrise. At least then she’d have a speck of a chance to be seen by a passing ship.
Sometimes I wonder about myself, Joey thought.
Once a tanker passed so close that it blocked out the moon. The ship’s silhouette was squat and dark and squared at both ends, like a high-rise condo tipped on its side. Joey had hollered and waved, but there was no chance of being heard above the clatter of the engines. The tanker pushed by, a russet wall of noise and fumes, and Joey resumed swimming.
Soon her legs started going numb, a spidery tingle that began in her toes and crept upward. Muscle cramps wouldn’t have surprised her, but the slow deadening did. She found herself laboring to keep her face above the waves, and eventually she sensed that she’d stopped kicking altogether. Toward the end she switched to the breaststroke, her legs trailing like pale broken cables.
We’ve only been married two years, she was thinking. What did I do to deserve this?
To take her mind off dying, Joey composed a mental list of the things that Chaz didn’t like about her:
1. She tended to overcook fowl, particularly chicken, due to a lifelong fear of salmonella.
2. The facial moisturizing cream that she applied at night smelled vaguely like insecticide.
3. Sometimes she dozed off during hockey games, even the play-offs.
4. She refused to go down on him while he was driving on Interstate 95, the Sunshine State Parkway or any surface road where the posted speed limit exceeded fifty miles per hour.
5. She could whip him at tennis whenever she felt like it.
6. She occasionally “misplaced” his favorite George Thorogood CDs.
7. She declined to entertain the possibility of inviting his hairstylist over for a threesome.
8. She belonged to a weekly book group.
9. She had more money than he did.
10. She brushed with baking soda instead of toothpaste. . . .
Come on, Joey thought.
A guy doesn’t suddenly decide to murder his wife just because she serves a chewy Cornish hen.
Maybe it’s another woman, Joey thought. But then why not just ask me for a divorce?
She didn’t have the energy to sort it all out. She’d married a worthless horndog and now he’d heaved her overboard on their anniversary cruise and very soon she would drown and be devoured by sharks. Out here you had the big boys: blacktips, lemons, hammerheads, tigers, makos and bulls. . . .
Please, God, don’t let them eat me, Joey thought, until after I’ve died.
The same warm tingle was starting in her fingertips and soon, she knew, both arms would be as spent and useless as her legs. Her lips had gone raw from the salt, her tongue was swollen like a kielbasa and her eyelids were puffy and crusted. Still, the lights of Florida beckoned like stardust whenever she reached the top of a wave.
So Joey struggled on, believing she still had a slender chance of survival. If she made it across the Gulf Stream, she’d finally be able to rest; ball up and float until the sun came up.
She had momentarily forgotten about the sharks, when something heavy and rough-skinned butted against her left breast. Thrashing and grunting, she beat at the thing with both fists until the last of her strength was gone.
Cavitating into unconsciousness, she was subjected to a flash vision of Chaz in their stateroom aboard the Sun Duchess, screwing a blond croupier before heading aft for one final bucket of balls.
Prick, Joey thought.
Then the screen in her head went blank.
From the Hardcover edition.
New York Times bestseller Carl Hiaasen's offbeat humor, penetrating political perceptions, and memorable characters make a potent combination when mixed with a crooked biologist's escalating efforts to cover up ecological abuses of the Everglades in Skinny Dip.
Many things in Joey Perrone's marriage haven't lived up to her expectations. After two years, the relationship between Joey and her gorgeous biologist husband, Chaz, seems as stagnant as a swamp. But the romantic anniversary cruise that she'd hoped would rekindle the romance is worse than a disappointment. It's a disaster! Not only does Chaz virtually ignore her in favor of practicing his golf swing and gorging at the 24/7 buffets, but when he invites her up on deck for a moonlit stroll, he tosses her overboard to die.
Fortunately, the diving expertise he'd forgotten she had helps Joey survive the fall; the Gulf Stream eases her way toward shore; and luck provides a floating bale of pot for her to cling to as her strength is ebbing away. When she's finally pulled from her watery almost-grave by ex-investigator Mick Stranahan, Joey is determined not to resurface among the living until she has the answers to two vital questions: Why did Chaz marry her, and why does he want her dead? Mick's not exactly a by-the-book kind of guy, so he goes along with Joey's plan to hound Chaz from beyond the grave…and get the justice she deserves.
Here's what Carl Hiaasen has to say about the many catalysts that propel the story in Skinny Dip:
Carl Hiaasen: I've never been accused of carefully planning my plots. My characters tend to take over the book completely, and I'm constantly surprised by the things they do and say -- happily surprised, most of the time. Plotwise, nothing I can dream up can possibly compete with the real-life headlines down here in Florida. The use of chance isn't just a novelistic device -- real life is nothing but chance, every waking minute. And a novelist's job is to put real life on the page, in a story.
In a novel, as in real life, crime is always about greed, lust, or both. There are crimes of the pocket and crimes of the heart. I don't classify crimes by degree when I write fiction. All good novels are about wrong and right, and at the center of each of them is always some kind of crime or injustice.
Ransom Notes: What do you like most about using Florida settings in your work?
CH: Florida has a tremendous variety of settings, cultures, politics, crimes. It's a novelist's dream. There is weirdness and perversion in vast abundance. Parts of it are indescribably raw and gorgeous, and parts of it are unspeakably ugly. I can't think of another place in America so rich in possibilities, good and bad.
RN: When an otherwise honest person, like Joey, decides to work outside the law, would you describe what she wants -- as justice or revenge?
CH: Sometimes revenge and justice are the same thing. In Joey's case, she needs to find out why her husband tossed her off a cruise ship on their anniversary. She also needs to see him pay for this horrible act, though not necessarily in a court of law. Why do people take the law into their own hands? Obviously, they're frustrated, and they believe they won't get justice from the justice system. In the case of Joey Perrone, she's afraid that Chaz would talk his way into an acquittal if she filed formal charges. So she comes up with her own plan, as risky and imperfect as it turns out to be. One of the themes in Skinny Dip is that sometimes these matters end up in the hands of nature, where justice can come in many poetic ways. Chaz Perrone learns this firsthand.
Okay, I don't know if I would read this on a cruise, but it is a great, fun book. You've got the lovely, strong heroine, the totally bumbling bad guy, and the sexy rescuer. And mostly set on sunny beaches! This is almost a reverse mystery. You know who did it, but not why. And the pay back! Wow... you just have to read it!
9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 5, 2009
I wanted something light and offbeat and I got something hilarious, crazy, and full of heart. Hiaasen gets his message in there without beating you over the head. Books don't usually make me "laugh out loud," but this one had me chuckling in public. I'd definitely recommend it!
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2011
I only read the sample on my nook, the language was not suitible for chidren. But the characters are fantastic! Adults have fun
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 3, 2012
Posted July 26, 2012
Posted May 15, 2012
This is the first book that I have read from this author and it was great. The humor is witty and sarcastic, which is right up my alley. It had me laughing from start to finish. If you decide to read this book do not go into it with the idea of the plot being some great mistery, it is more like good ole fashion revenge with a funny cast of characters. This book has turned me on to thie genre and I can't wait to read more and find other authors who are similiar.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2011
Posted August 19, 2006
'Skinny Dip' is loaded with potential and at times pretty enjoyable--the early descriptions of Tool, the hairy thug with a clear, warped, but ultimately somewhat redeemed sense of right and wrong, are entertaining in a pleasingly twisted way. And who wouldn't want to read a book that opens with a rich and lovely young woman, Joey Perrone, being dumped over the side of cruise ship by her spiritually atrophied, intellectually indolent, excessively paranoid, and cowardly husband, Chaz, who fears she will expose his unconscienable work as a 'scientist' to the authorities? Unfortunately, it isn't long after Joey is rescued by retired cop Mick Stranahan that the book becomes less a novel of people, however weird or warped, doing the bizarre things human beings do in South Florida than simultaneously (a) a lecture on evil corporate farmers who exploit migrants, rape the Everglades, pollute the environment, and (b) a middle aged male revenge fantasy in which a rich young woman falls in love with a middle aged man, every act of punishment administered to the villain pretty much goes according to plan, a good cop figures out the truth but prefers poetic justice to mere legal procedure (as does a stereotypical Vietnam veteran in the swamp). The book deserved another revision or two before going to press. One wishes the author had: a. made his villains, Chaz and Red, less a progressive's fantasy evil doers, and b. let his heroine be more complicated and suffer more challenges so we could see her grow and change. And the book needs more of an edge-- too many occurrences are not the result of an organic events, however satiric, as they are (or so it feels) of a guy sitting in a room alone thinking, dude, this would be so cool. Readers can handle complexity. We can take some nastiness in the lead character (please, no poor little rich girls) as well as some redeeming features in the bad guy, and many of us like to see protagonists have to work very hard to get what they want (or something like it). Perhaps Mr. Hiaasen, talented and observant as he clearly is, will get out a little farther on the limb next time and trust that a good story with unique characters and an edge to the narrative voice will provide entertainment and still get across the author's laudable message about gutless and hypocritical politicians, corrupt business people, and the unforgivable evils being done to nature.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2012
Oh,I finished this book but that was a chore.I just wanted to give the author the chance to impress me or at least entertain me at the end. This was such a kitch story. The cover was promising thrill and excitement. I thauhgt the characters were predictable. The ex cop who rescues her is like Crocodile Dundee and the characters from the swamps.......give me a break...I could not believe it one even had removable eye....
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2012
Posted March 25, 2012
Posted March 23, 2012
Quirky humor, unexpected laughs in unexpected places. Enjoyed the book. Overall storyline was a little "cliche", but, I enjoyed the book. I was sorry when it was finished, as I could have spent more time with the main character.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2011
Posted January 4, 2010
The concept of the book was interesting and made me think it would be enjoyable. Unfortunately the other aspects of the book, most notably the characters ended up taking more from the story than enhancing it.
I found myself multiple times asking myself, "What is this character thinking?" Almost every move made by the "bad guys(s)" are so cliché that I know that no one could really be that stupid. The one thing that kept me going was the thought that it couldn't get any worst, but then the same mistakes keep getting made by the same people over and over again.
Even the "good guys" are so stereotypical that I knew what was going to be coming even before it was foreshadowed.
The ending left me feeling like I wanted more closure to the story and a little disappointed that more wasn't done with the characters.
1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2004
I suppose that if you think the the fact that the lead character spends most of the book worrying about getting his penis up for sex, then you will think this is funny. But I thought the book was very poorly written, a completely disjointed plot, vile language, and idiotic characters. Need I say more? E-Jo
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2015
I picked this up as a time filler over a holiday, having read more recent Hiassen efforts. Finished it in 2 days, and enjoyed it's unexpected connectivity with some other Hiassen characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2014
Posted November 15, 2014
The opening scene cascades the story into a fast-paced hilarious mystery. I had read this book before, but needed to reread for a book club. Some of the events seem surreal, but continue to emit laughs from me. I especially enjoy the cast of characters and the coastal settings. As usual, Hiaasen floats stories of man's rape of nature into the story. This story centers on the Everglades and the mass pollution of the waters by huge farming corporations, and the corruption of government and politicians. Even though this is a lengthy book, the reading flows quickly.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2014
Posted June 29, 2014