7.5

Carl Hiaasen's Razor Girl Chronicles an Inventive Kidnapping Plot Gone Awry

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Carl Hiaasen's <i>Razor Girl</i> Chronicles an Inventive Kidnapping Plot Gone Awry

In Carl Hiaasen’s Florida, the criminals get dumber with each generation.

Razor Girl, Hiaasen’s new novel of boneheaded schemes gone awry, opens with an inventive kidnapping ploy drawn from true events. At the wheel of an old Firebird, redheaded babe Merry Mansfield pretends to be distracted while shaving her bikini area, rear-ending her unsuspecting target. Naturally lured by the unexpected exposure, the other driver agrees to give Merry a ride—directly to her partner in crime.

1razorgirlcover.pngMerry, however, crashed into the wrong car, catalyzing a spiraling plot that pits shitheads, shitweasels and shitbirds (in the author’s parlance) against one another, each driven by his or her own bizarrely focused form of avarice.

Like the gigantic Gambian pouched rats featured in Razor Girl, humanity’s worst specimens are an invasive species, deposited on the beautiful Florida Keys to indulge themselves in all manner of greed and gluttony. The novel’s lineup includes redneck chicken farmer Buck Nance (aka Captain Cock, star of the popular and 100-percent-contrived reality show Bayou Brethren); Nance’s sleazy, mistakenly kidnapped agent Lane Coolman; New York gangster-on-vacation Dominick “Big Noogie” Aeola; sand peddling fraudster Martin Trebeaux; dirtbag tort lawyer Brock Richardson; and the psychotic Blister, a bigoted lowlife crook as stupid as he is vicious.

“This is Florida,” a cop says, “the land of batshit, trigger-happy motherfuckers.”

At the center of it all is Andrew Yancey, the returning protagonist from Hiaasen’s 2013 bestseller Bad Monkey. A disgraced ex-cop now dutifully inspecting restaurants for the health department, Yancey is the novel’s conscience, a firm believer in karma and unspoiled coastlines.

Regular Hiaasen readers will be somewhat disappointed by the absence of Skink, the author’s wildest character who acts as a one-eyed metaphor for all the good in Florida that’s vanished at the hands of developers, crooked politicians and deranged crackpots. But not every misadventure that occurs in America’s Weirdest State can cross paths with Skink, and Hiaasen’s propulsive plot moves this motley collection of weirdos swiftly through a Rube Goldberg string of mistakes and counter-mistakes.

Hiaasen rules this satirized and exaggerated version of Florida as an agenda-driven and vengeful deity, reveling in the self-induced pitfalls that take down the worst offenders. His particular version of Murphy’s Law operates with a sly grin and a razor-sharp sense of humor.

But as the novel races to its madcap conclusion, it’s up to the titular Razor Girl to take the wheel once again in an implausible, purely Hiaasen plan to keep things from spinning completely out of control.