reality tv: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiassen hit it out of the park with this one, the twentieth of his novels for adults. Razor Girl is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. I could hardly stop laughing.

Imagine this: a beautiful young redheaded woman crashes into the back of a luxurious rental car driven by a high-flying Hollywood talent agent. The agent, Lane Coolman, has distinguished himself by assembling the cast of a spectacularly successful reality TV show that bears a suspicious resemblance to Duck Dynasty. The redhead, Merry Mansfield (“like the movie star”), is the Razor Girl of the title. Her skirt is hiked up, her panties lowered, and she is holding a razor after having used it in the obvious way. Naturally, since this is a Carl Hiassen novel, she has engineered the crash so an accomplice can kidnap Coolman. Thus begins another of Carl Hiassen’s wildly improbable and hilarious tales of crime in Florida.

Razor Girl by Carl Hiassen (2016) 402 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)

Razor Girl is set in the Florida Keys, where Hiassen’s favorite protagonist, former police Detective Andrew Yancy, is now an investigator on the roach patrol. He checks out reports of vermin in local restaurants and very rarely, if his boss allows him, orders them shut down. Yancy has two overarching goals in life: to prevent anyone from building a large house on the lot adjoining his home and thus spoiling his view, and to regain his job as a detective in the Sheriff’s Department. You won’t be surprised to learn that he reaches one goal but not the other.

And it’s no surprise that Yancy will become entangled with Merry Mansfield, along with a wider cast of some of the most astonishing characters ever to appear in works of fiction (perhaps other than in the novels of Charles Dickens). Merely to describe these creatures would spoil the story. It’s enough to say that Hiassen can take a stereotype and spin it 180 degrees into a parody of itself. Crime in Florida, and every species of criminal, human and animal, will never be the same again. Nor will reality TV, which Hiassen lampoons with delicious wit.

For further reading

For my review of another outstanding (and very funny) novel by Carl Hiaasen, go to A severed arm, a voodoo lady, and a detective on the roach patrol — and, oh yes, a very bad monkey.

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