by CATHERINE RAINEY
In case you missed the astonishingly egregious and hilariously inappropriate deeds on its release, Carl Hiaasen’s “Skinny Dip” is in need of a reprise! Although 15 years old, this novel has not yet lost its relevance or appeal. You’ll look forward to what may or may not happen as the story delves into the trials and tribulations of a well-to-do suburban couple living in Florida, along with the characters inadvertently affected by the outlaid plot.
We see the protagonist, Joey, presumably falling to her death on the first page: “I married an asshole, she thought, knifing headfirst into the waves.” This jarring start to the story has you wondering “but why?” especially since they were supposed to be having an enjoyable cruise for their wedding anniversary. This question will be the one that stays with you for much of the novel. Instead of dying from the fall, drowning or being eaten by sharks, Joey survives by blindly floating on a bale of Jamaica’s finest green. With the assistance of a few helping hands, a juicy and surprisingly refreshing revenge fantasy plays out.
You’ll eventually find out there’s much more to the plunge than a murderous spouse. Dr. Chaz Perrone is not as conspicuous as he appears: “At heart Chaz Perrone was irrefutably a cheat and a maggot, but he had always shunned violence as dutifully as a Quaker elder. Nobody who knew him, including his few friends, would have imagined him capable of homicide. Chaz himself was somewhat amazed that he’d actually gone through with it.” This golf-loving, self-absorbed adulterer meets all the criteria of an upper-class wannabe snob, but something else about him rubs you the wrong way; however, not just for the matricide he assumes is successful.
When Joey Perrone, formerly Wheeler, was younger, she and her brother unintentionally found themselves millionaires after their casino-owning parents’ strange and untimely death. As the two grew older, one found solace in the presence of animals, while the other looked for a genuine human connection.
Knowing this, you assume Joey’s husband tried to receive her fortune through ill will, but he vehemently denies this throughout the story. He claims she had no intention of ever actually, in his eyes, properly using the money. When a local detective starts in- quiring, he immediately denies the assumption: “If she dies, I don’t get a cent. The money goes into an irrevocable trust.”
Hiaasen continues to throw interesting twists into the mix. As a biologist in Florida, you assume Chaz may be partial to the environment and even a nature lover, but alas, his greatest fear is becoming a hungry alligator’s snack. As Hiaasen puts it: “Charles Regis Perrone was a biologist by default. Medical school had been his first goal — specifically, a leisurely career in radiology. The promise of wealth had attracted him to healthcare, but as a devoted hypochondriac he was repelled by the idea of interacting with actual sick people.”
Instead of a “who done it” novel, we find ourselves immersed in a “why done it.” Chaz’s motives aren’t easy to navigate and you can see how his own selfishness and associations with questionable characters might have pushed him to the edge.
One of these catalysts to Chaz’s downward spiral takes the form of a wealthy farming tycoon known as Red, who shakes hands through money and couldn’t care less about the affected environ- ment or the safety and health of his workers. Soon we meet a formidable and uneducated Earl Edward O’Toole, called Tool, who joins the blend. Employed by Red for odd jobs, including acting as Chaz’s bodyguard after Joey’s presumed murder, Tool has his own coming-to-life story throughout the novel.
What will happen? Who will be the next victim? With various characters coming in and out of the hubbub, Chaz may eventually realize attempting murder isn’t really in his set of talents.
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