Book Review: Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

Note: I had originally posted this review as part of a round-up of several reviews from last October, but after looking at my blog's front page recently, I realized that it would be much easier for my visitors to find reviews of books they are interested in if I stick to a one-book-per-post-no-matter-how-short-the-review-is policy going forward. That way readers can scan the book covers on my blog's home page as if they were browsing a book store. So I reposted this as a solo book review.  

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

book cover for skin tight shows a curved fish on a bright blue background.
Publisher: Berkley, 2010 (originally published in 1989)
Genre: Adult, Mystery
Format: ebook

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to read books set in whatever location I’m in. After spending a week in Florida earlier this fall, I found myself wanting to read a book that captured the spirit of the Florida man news memes. So naturally, I turned to Carl Hiaasen.

I had read and loved Hoot, a middle grade novel by Carl Hiaasen earlier this year, but while Hiaasen’s middle grade novels do feature a cleaned-up version of his quirky humor, they also tend to pack a surprisingly intense emotional punch. The reason for my trip to Florida was not a joyous one, so I wanted a book that would be relatively undemanding and if I was really lucky, at least somewhat amusing. I decided to check out one of his adult mystery novels instead.

In Skin Tight, Hiaasen introduces us to retired police detective turned private investigator Mick Stranahan. After surviving a long series of deeply unsuitable marriages, Stranahan is doing his best to hide from the world at large. Yet people persist in trying to kill him. We know this because Stranahan has just had to spear one of them with the pointy end of a mounted marlin. The characters in the case are classic Hiaasen: a plastic surgeon with shaky fingers and worse technique, a murderer-for-hire who installs a weed wacker in place of his missing arm, and a personal injury lawyer with a face made for highway billboards.

One of the nice things about reading the earlier books of an established mystery writer, is that those books tend to be contemporary accounts from a time that now feels surprisingly distant. In the case of Skin Tight, Hiaasen is writing in 1989 about a story that takes place in the 1980s. Having grown up in the 1980’s, I enjoyed reading a murder mystery set in a time when cell phones were still relatively rare, computers were not a reasonable thing for a person to carry around, and fax machines were still a viable means of communication.

The book was just what I needed last month, but the next time I want to visit the late 1980s, I may do it in the company of Sue Grafton — another great mystery writer I’ve managed to shamefully neglect.

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