Soon Boodle and Stoat's wife, Desie, are fugitives from Florida's nature despoilers (who include the Governor, a "gladhanding maggot," the amusingly slimy Stoat, the human bulldozer Krimmler, the cocaine-importer-turned-developer Clapley, and the hit man Mr. Gash, who's fond of sex with multiple beach bimbos in iguana-skin sex harnesses to the tunes of The World's Most Blood Curdling Emergency Calls). Desie, who has a knack for calamitous romance, is smitten with Twilly, but urges him not to kill any litterbugs or pelican molesters: "Jail would not be good for this relationship." What keeps pure farce at bay in a novel that romps with the abandon of a scent-crazed Labrador is the otherwise charming Twilly's creepy edge of implacable fanaticism. And what redeems the funny/ugly violence from cliché is its colorful bad guys (they're as iridescent as oil slicks), Hiaasen's excellent wit, and the music of his prose. To evoke a drunk asleep on the beach, he adds a pungent detail: "a gleaming stellate dollop of seagull shit decorated his forehead."
Hiaasen is not unflawed. His original eco-terrorist character, ex-Florida governor Clinton "Skink" Tyree, seems like an interloper from the earlier books. But Hiaasen's the master of madcap ensembles (which is partly why the star-vehicle film of his fine book Strip Tease flopped). And even when you can see a chase scene's denouement coming for a beachfront mile, each paragraph packs descriptive delights to keep you going at breakneck pace. --Tim Appelo