I haven’t decided yet how I feel about Carl Hiaasen. I was told to try his books if I liked quirky macabre mysteries with a sense of humor. After reading Tourist Season, I’m still on the fence. I’ve seen enough “Florida Man” stories to know they are kind of crazy down there, but the darkness of this story while at the same time trying to be funny didn’t quite hit the mark.
Brian Keyes is a former reporter turned private investigator. He’s hired by a series of people for different cases which are inevitably tied together in the long run. There’s a killer on the loose, but the local police are more worried about the damage to Florida’s tourist trade than actually solving the crime. When Skip Wiley, a former colleague from the newspaper goes missing as well, Brian finds himself in deep with Las Noches de Diciembre, a terrorist cell intent on driving the tourists away and keeping Florida natural. Complicating matters, Brian’s ex, Jenna, left him for Skip and he must figure out not only his feelings for her but where she stands in everything that’s going on.
If you thought Florida had more than its fair share of quirky characters, they’re all here. Everyone Brian encounters seems to be out of the ordinary in some way. Many of them stretch credibility to the extreme, and even Brian’s actions are a bit questionable at times. Unfortunately, this causes parts that are supposed to be humorous to be more uncomfortable than anything else.
The tourists are dismissed easily here, even as they are dying off. Living in a tourist town myself, I get the problem. You need the tourists for the economy and at the same time everything you love about where you live is corrupted by them in some way; from over-development to over-use of natural attractions. Still, I’d l like to think that we’d care a little more than the people do in Tourist Season about them turning up dead.
Written in 1986, there are some parts that don’t stand the test of time. A teenage beauty queen seducing the (much older) protagonist might not have seemed like a big deal then, but in the wake of Epstein’s enclave so near to where Tourist Season takes place, it’s a rather uncomfortable thing.
The pace of the book was good. I stopped more because I found things so unbelievable at times, but continued because I wanted to know what the payoff was. I was glad to finish the book.
This was Hiaasen’s first novel, so I’m still willing to stay with him for a while. I’d give Tourist Season 3 stars. I think there were areas that were a lot of fun and others which could use a lot of improvement.