Jack Tagger's career is on the skids. Once a hotshot investigative reporter, the 46-year-old snoop has been reduced to being a lowly corpse chronicler, a writer of obituaries for a South Florida newspaper. Disconsolate and ever restless, he decides to resurrect his career by expanding his job. When a rock star dies in a diving "accident," Tagger doesn't just write his postmortem; he investigates the suspicious circumstances of his demise. This wickedly funny and delightfully irreverent novel will please anyone who loves a good mystery -- and a good laugh.
Hiassen gets back to his roots with this (almost) straight-ahead mystery, but doesn't skimp on the funny stuff as he follows the adventures of Jack Tagger, down-on-his-luck journalist relegated to the obit beat at a smalltown Florida daily. While researching a death notice, Jack stumbles by accident upon an actual news story: former rocker Jimmy Stoma has drowned while diving in the Bahamas, and his widow, wannabe star Cleo Rio, can't convince Jack that his death was accidental. The mystery offers Jack a way out of his job-related death fixation ("It's an occupational hazard for obituary writers memorizing the ages at which famous people have expired, and compulsively employing such trivia to track the arc of one's own life") and toward his increasingly lusty feelings for Emma, his 27-year-old editor (" `Bring whipped cream,' I tell her, `and an English saddle' "). But when things turn violent and Jack suddenly has to defend himself with a giant frozen lizard, he enlists the help of his sportswriter friend Juan Rodriguez and teenage club scene veteran Carla Candilla to try to find out why someone is killing off has-been sleaze rockers. A hilarious sendup of exotic Floridian fauna in the newspaper business, the novel offers all the same treats Hiassen's fans have come to crave. What makes this book different is its first-person, present-tense narrative style. Unlike previous capers, which were narrated in the omniscient third person, this book settles squarely in the mystery genre from whence Hiaasen's fame (Double Whammy; Tourist Season) initially sprang. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In Hiaasen's ninth novel (after Sick Puppy), Jack Tagger is a former investigative reporter demoted to obituaries. When Jimmy Stoma, the lead singer of a once major but now forgotten rock band, dies in a suspicious diving accident, Jack pounces on the opportunity to prove his investigative mettle to his editor and secure his position in an increasingly unpleasant workplace. He interviews the less-than-distraught widow, Cleo Rio, herself the latest hot commodity on the music scene, and studies the lyrics Stoma wrote for his band, the Slut Puppies. Members of Jimmy's old band turn up dead, which suggests foul play. Now Jack has to stay alive as well as convince his editor that the Jimmy Stoma story is important. All this, and a frozen monitor lizard, entices the reader to keep turning the pages. Hiaasen's typical quirky characters and hilarious dialog are in abundance in this thoroughly entertaining novel. For all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/01.] Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
South Florida's master farceur takes enough off his trademark loony tunes (Sick Puppy) to fit some, though not all, the laughs into a whodunit. The corpse is the late James Bradley Stomarti, a.k.a. Jimmy Stoma, the long-ago rocker whose fame, years after he fronted the Slut Puppies, is so great that Courtney Love and the Van Halen brothers turn out for his funeral. So does Jack Tagger, banished from the Union-Register investigative team to the obituary desk after he told off the paper's greedy new owner in front of the shareholders. Jack has succeeded in getting enough material from Jimmy's widow, one-hit singer Cleo Rio, to file the very first obit on the one-time star. Unfortunately, much of the material seems to be untrue, or at least suggestively incomplete. Jimmy wasn't producing the new album Cleo's been plugging at every opportunity, insists his sister, Janet Thrush, but working on his own comeback record. And there are some peculiar discrepancies about Jimmy's scuba-diving death in the Bahamas. Before Jack can get Janet to request a full autopsy on Jimmy, though, Cleo's had his body cremated. Still curious, Jack digs up Jimmy's diving partner, fellow Slut Puppy alum Jay Burns; hours later, as if on cue, Burns is dead. Is somebody trying to wipe out the whole band? Reluctantly aided by his gung-ho editor, comely Emma Cole, Jack presses on, and is soon attacked for his trouble by a thug he fends off with the frozen corpse of Colonel Tom, his late pet lizard-one of the many funny trimmings here that don't have very much to do with the story. The giggles throughout, in fact, are authentic, but this time the crazies only nibble at the edges of the dutiful detective story instead of disporting themselves smack into the middle of things, as they've done in Hiaasen's more inspired crime comedies.
“[A] rollickingly comic and suspenseful adventure.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Fresh and juicy. . . A sunny delight.”
“As delicious as ever. . . [Hiaasen is] a master of the comic crime novel.”
“Hiaasen delivers a culpable caper that’s a pleasurable hit.”
“A riot. . . It’s one thing to be twisted and funny. It’s quite another to manage twisted, funny, and serious. . . . Hiaasen consistently juggles the heavy with the light.”
“Frisky. . . . The real music here is Mr. Hiaasen’s self-assured banter.”
—The New York Times
“Riled, righteous, and rip-roaring funny. . . Hiaasen’s novels ought to bear the warning label: may be hazardous to your sides. They may split.”
—New York Newsday
“[Hiaasen] is head and shoulders above the rest. . . . Straight crime fiction with a biting, satiric edge, and it proves what his hardcore fans have known for a long time—he is, at heart, simply a great storyteller and a better writer.”
—Charleston Post and Courier
“Great good fun. . . Basket Case is typical Hiaasen. In other words, it’s wildly hyperbolic, with lots of digs at South Florida's zany lifestyle and (in this case) a total smearing of corporate journalism.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch