It seems to happen almost every day as if by clockwork. You get home, settle down and get tea made. You manage to take one bite of hot food when... the phone rings. You know that you should just let it ring and pick up a message later, but some primordial urge forces you to pick up. Perhaps it's a family crisis? No, it's another bloomin' sales call. They are bad enough when they are from some random company trying to sell you a new boiler even though you are only renting the flat. Worse still are the pre-recorded messages that clog up your phone line until they end. However, the vilest of the vile is when a company you use try and sell you something more. I already get my Broadband off you, would you please stop bloomin' phoning me - is my direct debit into your account each month not enough for you? It's enough to send someone over the edge.
Which is what happens when Honey Santana gets a sales call during her meal. Honey is not the most stable of woman at the best of times, being prone to flights of fancy and chasing impossible causes. He son worries about her as he should; she has, unknowingly to him, stopped taking her pills. Honey seeks revenge on the salesman who called her - one Boyd Shreave. Boyd himself is messed up; he is having an affair with a woman at work and he thinks his wife may know, how can he escape? When he receives a sales call himself it's almost too good to be true when he is offered a free trip for him +1 to Florida. The trap baited, Honey will take; Boyd, his lover, her own son, her ex husband, a confused Native American, and a mad man on a trip into the wilds.
I am a huge fan of Carl Hiaasen's books. He is one of the best writers of hip Florida based crime comedies that seems to be a surprisingly healthy genre. What Hiaasen adds to the story is an environmental bent, which again is the case here. The Florida Everglades and destruction of Native American heritage is as much a part of this book as the comedy farce it centres on. Whilst never being at the forefront of the book, these slightly contentious elements do add flavour.
What 'Nature Girl' lacks is a strong story. Hiaasen is wonderful at creating place and character, but sometimes he forgets to create a narrative to contain everything. This is the case here as the book drifts along as a series of small scenes rather than an overarching storyline. In most cases this would be enough to completely ruin a book, but Hiaasen is so good at creating flawed characters, that following them is the joy anyway.
In Honey and Boyd, Hiaasen has created two perfect examples of his style. Honey is a sympathetic woman who is edgy enough for you to like her. She's full of energy and beautiful, but also pretty mental. Hiaasen also creates fantastic snivelling characters, as seen with Boyd. Boyd is a born loser, as an author Hiaasen does not particularly judge him, but let's the reader decide for themselves what they think. Add into the mix some other colourful characters and you suddenly realise that the book is an exercise in comedy farce. The final third in particular is a great example of funny coincidences occurring that create some great set pieces.
'Nature Girl' is indicative on Hiaasen's later work as he has established his style and become a successful author. This means that the book follows similar trends to previous books he has written. Some people will welcome the similar characters, locations and ideas, whilst others would have had their fill. Personally, I still think that he is a great writer and his more mellowed style in recent books hints that he could have his best work in front of him. This is not as laugh out loud funny as his first few books, but contains more humanity and characterisation. Hiaasen is an author who now writes books that anyone can pick up and enjoy. This is good fodder for people to take on holiday and actually learn something as well as be entertained.
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
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