Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey is the 17th book in his off-beat, humorous Serge Storms thriller series (available January 28, 2014).
Tim Dorsey is back with Tiger Shrimp Tango, another delightfully demented tale of manic reverence for all things Florida kitsch and homicidal glee (Glee, too — Serge and Coleman are a little obsessed). And in case you were worried Serge had run out of Secret Master Plans,
“Au contraire,” said Serge. “This detective business is part of the biggest Secret Master Plan yet. That’s why we’ve driven back to Tampa. We have to attend the Republican National Convention.”
“Except it’s anything but,” said Serge. “Especially with Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down with gale-force situation comedy. And if I’m really lucky, I might run into Sarah Palin so I can help her out.”
“Because the woman of my dreams has fallen on hard times,” said Serge. “Last time I saw her, it was at a distance on TV in a department store, and she apparently has been reduced to working behind the counter at a Chick-fil-A.”
Don’t worry, Republicans aren’t the only ones on Serge’s radar. In fact, his biggest assignment has to do with dispatching a collection of scam artists that are so thoroughly Florida, they might have originated in the @_FloridaMan Twitter feed. And there’s plenty of mayhem and situation comedy.
The naked couple ran screaming out of the hotel, covered with fire-extinguisher foam.
Which didn’t attract much attention in Fort Lauderdale.
A window on the top floor shattered. Broken glass rained down from the high-rise, followed by a toilet-tank lid that exploded in the street.
People began to notice. Police and fire trucks arrived. TV vans.
Two men nonchalantly strolled up the noisy sidewalk through ceramic chunks and suds.
“The key to my new life as a private detective is ultra-sensitive powers of observation,” Serge told Coleman. “You must be able to detect the tiniest out-of-place detail...”
A hysterical mob ran by, scratching slippery breasts and buttocks.
“Most people walk through life without ever noticing the little clues all around that something’s not right.”
Another toilet lid crashed in front of them and Serge pulled a porcelain splinter from his arm. “In Florida, you just have to filter out the background weirdness.”
Speaking of background duh-worthy weirdness (and Serge’s career as a detective), Mahoney’s back with his trademark pulpy... Well, let him explain.
The name’s Mahoney. I get lied to for a living. The sign on the door says I’m a private eye, but I mainly keep bartenders and bookies in business.
My best friends—a rumpled fedora and bottle of rye—sat silently on my desk, waiting anxiously for the next case like a weasel-beater in a peep-show booth with incorrect change.
The day began like any other, except it was Tuesday, not the other six. One of those pleasant days, real nice, right up until it kicks you in the Adam’s apple like a transvestite in stilettos. The air coming through my window was heavy with heat, humidity, and double crosses.
Of course, it’s not the heat, not even the humidity, that gets you, it’s Serge. Well, after he’s done at Gatorland and the Tupperware Museum and that warehouse in Hialeah that used to have an attached lounge and registers to vote and...finishes mixing whatever’s in that bowl... And fear not, he’s still dispensing wisdom and tales of Florida history and myth.
“You know the difference between Floridians and everyone else in the world?”
“We drive around all day and get totally baked?”
“Alligators,” said Serge. “We’re so used to them we don’t even notice anymore...
“Any alligator not in a swamp, because all this was their swamp, and now they’re living alongside us, using our swimming pools and golf courses and shopping-mall fountains until both sides have grown accustomed to the arrangement.”
“You mentioned the rest of the world?”
“At the mere sight of these modern dinosaurs, foreign tourists spaz out with disposable cameras. Especially the British. I love watching the British go gaga over gators. Last year, I was driving across the glades on the Tamiami Trail and saw all these cars pulled over and people gaping at the roadside canal, and I thought that maybe another sightseeing van had rolled into the water. So I stopped and noticed a single gator had crawled up on the opposite bank, and dozens of people in shorts and dark socks were snapping a million pictures. Their reaction was priceless, like a small boy finding his penis for the first time.”
“Did I bring back a bad memory?”
“No!” Coleman pointed. “I’m getting a second rush wave! Those gigantic alligator jaws coming toward us. Please tell me it’s a hallucination!”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s definitely real, like ten or twelve feet high.”
There’s a certain truth in that. (Not Coleman’s mescaline hallucinations; they are actually in front of a giant alligator.) I mean, the term “Floriduh” has its own blog, website, section of National Review, and entry in the Urban Dictionary. When people aren’t beating up Disney employees, mailing babies, taking sharks on the train, and getting naked in random public places, they’re urinating on cops, eating faces, and punching each other at kids’ parties. It’s not all that hard to believe anything Serge or Coleman do. Not really a stretch to believe an of it, really. And in a state where squatters have been renting out foreclosed properties, the guy with the Corvette seems almost tame.
Somewhere along the way, there are murders, revenge, plots, and the Plan. There’s also a little scam-artist comeuppance and you will just have to read it to find out what Serge does (or tries to do) with a gelatin mold.
I actually read this one out loud to my husband, who hasn’t read a novel since high school and he was so entertained, he kept asking each night if we could read some more until it was done. If you can’t find someone to read it to you, you really should read it yourself. It’s crazy-good fun.
(Oh, and don’t order the tiger shrimp.)
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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).
Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.