Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey is the 18th humorous escapade of Florida serial killer Serge Storm, and this time, after binging on a collection of legal films, he's ready to try his own hand at  upholding the law (available January 27, 2015).

Tim Dorsey’s back with his 18th Serge Storm’s book, Shark Skin Suite. Now, given Dorsey’s plots are Florida headlines fed a steady diet of Coleman’s drug stash, run through the Florida Man Twitter feed, and frosted with incredibly creative serial murder, it means, given half my neighborhood in sunny South Florida has been foreclosed on – some places more than once – it’s only natural that the heart of Shark Skin Suite would be a foreclosure lawsuit, some slimy lawyers, and Coleman’s brother.

The biggest problem with a Dorsey novel, if you’re a big fan of believability, is parsing out the stuff that’s actually stuff that happened or stuff that happens so often no one notices anymore and the stuff that’s actually cranked up to eleven and three quarters. For example, I’m reading along and come to a part where a newly-minted lawyer figures out a way to get a bank to finally pay back the people it wrongly threw out of a house they’d paid cash for. My husband thinks it’s great, and ponders how the author came up with such an idea. My guess is he saw it on the news.  Yes, that’s a real news story, names and companies changed, of course. (It’s somehow even better the way Dorsey does it.)

Surely, though, the giant, stucco-eating snails must be fake. Right? Nope. There’s even a hotline to report sightings of them. They aren’t quite as widespread in the Keys, but if the pythons and iguanas and northern curly-tailed lizards and Brazilian pepper and lionfish and Cuban tree frogs are any indication, we’ll be overrun with meningitis-causing snails before Dorsey finishes his book tour.

All that said, keep in mind this book was written, formatted, and advance reader copies were out in the world before Discovery aired that one special. Clearly, Serge could teach those guys a thing or two. Then, neither the man nor the snake would be too happy about how that would work out.

He also manages to cause an explosion with an iguana, so props or points there.

The key takeaway, though, isn’t necessarily spotting all the actual Florida news – unless maybe @_Florida Man really is your favorite Twitter feed (in which case, there’s a @_Flor1daWoman for your amusement as well). It’s how real news, imaginary characters (although a few people at this point may argue Serge is real), and normally-picturesque geography turns into a slapdash, manic, maelstrom of comedy, murder, and just desserts. Oh, and the historical factoids. (Those make for great road trip ideas once you’ve seen all the major post card destinations a dozen times.)


Oak trees ran the town; the people just lived there. They grew everywhere, forming shade canopies over roads and obscuring buildings. Anyplace you walked, massive lengths of Spanish moss draped from overhead branches like and endless cavern of ZZ Top beards.

The moss hung in front of a barbershop, the wood shingled railroad warehouse, a trading post, the Garage Café and a short row of early brick buildings that formed main street, which was called Cholokka Boulevard. Four elegant white Corinthian columns held up the two-story southern veranda of a plantation-style mansion.

Except for the late-model SUVs and coupes parked in fron of the antiques shops, it could have been 1898. The mansion was now a bed & breakfast.

An arm extended from the driver’s window, snapping photos as the ’76 Ford Cobra headed north. The arm came back inside. “I can never get enough of Micanopy! It’s the oldest inland town in Florida, and also the oldest overall that was settled by Americans, as opposed to the Spanish in Saint Augustine.”

“What’s it named after?”

“The Indian chief who had to move to Oklahoma.”

The four little old ladies, Edna, Edith, Eunice, and Ethel are back, too. Adding to the wildlife of the coral reefs and yelling, “Eat me!” while body-painted as the band Kiss – topless – during Fantasy Fest. As Edith tells it,…

So here we area again. Story time. Guess you want to know what happened, again. We landed in the middle of another huge Florida freak show that made the news all the way to Germany and Japan. How many times is that now? Four? Five? We’re like geriatric Forrest Gumps.

Oh, and the astonishing-sounding buffalo herd not far from the University of Florida? They reached a peak population of around 70 back in 2011, but their numbers are much smaller today. In other words, yep, they’re real, too. Don’t get in their way.

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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.

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