Book Reviews

Book Review: Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey – Florida Quirkiness Overkill

I’m normally the type that enjoys a quirky story. My mother used to call this type of book “black humor.” It’s not that these kinds of stories are alien to me. However, it seems like there’s a point that “quirky” just descends to the ridiculous. While I laughed at a lot of points in Florida Roadkill, overall I thought it crossed that line.

Serge Storms is an obsessive-compulsive Florida Man who has many mental disorders. He lives with a drug-addict roommate, Coleman. They meet up with Sharon, a stripper who kills rich men for their life insurance. She’s trying to make a quick exit when she runs into the boys and they start on a crime spree. Along the way, Serge gets wind of a suitcase full of stolen money. The three are on the trail of the money, traveling the west coast of the state down to the Keys. Along the way there are some side adventures as the cast of characters converges on the Dry Tortugas. This includes: a biker gang, a radio talkshow bigot, a seedy retirement community manager, an orthodontist with a drinking problem, and three killers from a drug cartel with inferiority complexes.

I wanted to start this series at the beginning, so if there were any references to past novels in the series I would be able to grasp them. The story is silly and absurd, but at times also disturbing. The casual violence is a bit shocking, even though it’s couched in dark humor. A friend stated, “everyone he kills deserves it.” But do they? Other than Sean and David, the two men who are good guys just trying to enjoy a fishing trip, there are really not many likable characters in the story, Serge included. The book felt like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Carl Hiaasen.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. Serge’s proclivity for Florida trivia comes in at the strangest times and produces amusement. He also is always on the lookout for the easy buck and comes up with many hair-brained schemes. There’s plenty of fun to be found on the pages, but at times the dark quirkiness got to be a bit too much. There were fun moments such as when Serge and Coleman wanted to watch a space shuttle launch or get to see the Florida Marlins in the World Series, which take place outside of the main story of the $5 million briefcase. This is presented like a typical Florida diversion and it makes for a break from the dark humor. The story could have used more of that.

I think in later books Dorsey got the balance better, but I’m starting at the beginning and this one is a bit uneven. I don’t think Serge had really found the sense of justice he finds in later books, nor does he come off as a vigilante. Down the road that may be who he evolves into, but he’s not terribly likable here and I kept rooting for him to be killed. With 26 books in the series so far, I knew it wasn’t going to happen, though. I can’t say I really recommend the book. However, if you want to follow the story of Serge Storms, this is definitely where you should begin.