The Government would have us believe the Crime Statistics that come out each year. There are two sets taken; one that reflects what people say when questioned randomly on the streets, and another that looks at reported crimes. According to these stats most crime is down, but is this not because many people do not bother to tell anyone anymore? House burglarised, car broken into, bike pinched? Are you going to tell the police? For a lot of people their only reason to do this will be to get a crime number so they can claim insurance. The truth is that although crime statistically has fallen people's trust in the police is low and their fear of crime has risen. If this were not enough stats themselves are a joke as you can make any conclusion you want (54% of all stats are made up). What happens if a decimal point slips - murder in Manchester 0.4 per 1000 people maybe is meant to read 4 per 1000! A slip up like this made nice guy Jim Davenport move into the completely wrong neighbourhood...
Jim Davenport is just an ordinary family man; in fact he is ordinary to a fault never wanting to upset anyone or anything. When he moves with his family to Florida he thinks he is close to the American dream, a better paid job in a crime free environment. This is far from the truth though as Jim soon finds out when he has to kill a man who threatens his baby daughter with a gun. Things get worse when social sociopath Serge Storms moves in next door and brings his own brand of psychotic rage to the neighbourhood. Florida is a messed up state and Tim Dorsey revel in the chaos of it all in 'Triggerfish Twist'.
There was an edgy bite to 'Triggerfish Twist' that I could not help but enjoy. I am rather a cynical person in life so a book that promotes a pessimistic view will always go down well with me. Dorsey is at his very best when he is viciously attacking some of the hypocrisies that dominate America, be it their penchant for polluting, or the huge gap between have and have not. Once again it is the themes of causal violence, apathy and ineptitude that dominates this book. Through a series of events that Jack cannot do anything about he finds himself in a hell hole with no escape. For this reason you really get to like him and hope that he manages to find an escape.
Although the leading man in this book Jack is not Dorsey's centre of attention. That privilege goes to major side player Serge Storms who has appeared in all of his novels. Storms is an intelligent sociopath who flips from intellectual to homicidal in moments. Rather than being scary he is actually a very interesting and charismatic creation and one that Dorsey develops well over the years. Here Storms moves in next door to Jack and rather than be part of the problem they become friends and he tries to help out in his own sweet, yet twisted, way. The scene that sees Jack, Serge and some of Serge's friends out on a typical bender is really funny and stands out in the book.
The problem with the novel is not the characters of the humour, but the structure. The all night bender section of the book highlighted the disjointed nature of the book as it read like a short story. This is what the book essentially is; a series of vignettes stitched together loosely with a central narrative. Dorsey has us skipping from Jim, to Serge, to a dodgy property owner, to a group of grannies, to a bank clerk and back again. All of these characters will interact at certain points, but essentially they have separate stories. Dorsey ends up telling too many jokes about different people that he neglects the fact that the book needs a story.
'Triggerfish Twist' is not Dorsey's best work by a way, the lack of structure sees to this. I was also disappointed with the different amusing death scenes (another Dorsey speciality). None of them hit earlier heights such as a man killed by wearing shrink to fit jeans in the bath. However, despite the fact that the book was very chaotic there is no denying that it was funny in places and also made you think about the hypocrisy that is rife in Western civilisations. I enjoy the characters and as always look forward to reading more about Serge. There is no denying that Dorsey is an author with a great imagination and an enthusiasm for writing. 'Triggerfish' is packed with entertaining segments that look at the absurdities of modern America. The problem is that the book is too kinetic and loses focus time after time. Let's hope that the lack of narrative is not a growing trend in Dorsey's work and that he gives us both laughs and story.
Author: Tim Dorsey
Price: amazon uk - £0.75 (2nd hand)