Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sick Puppy: A Book Review

I decided to move this book out of its “queue” and review it earlier so I can lend the book out. This is the second Hiaasen book I’ve recently read. I reviewed the other book, Skinny Dip, on Saturday.

Carl Hiaasen, Sick Puppy (New York: Warner Books, 1999), 513 pages.

Twilly Spree is a young, unemployed, multi-millionaire living off his trust fund and spending his time harassing litterbugs and developers. One day he happens to run across Palmer Sloat, a lobbyist who seems to think the state’s interstate highway is his own personal dump. Soon, and unbeknownst to Palmer, Twilly is on his tail. He dumps trash in Palmer’s sports car, kidnaps his Labrador Retriever name Boodle and renames him McGuinn, finds himself enchanted with Palmer’s lovely wife Desie, and sets out to destroy the lobbyist’s current project—a state funded bridge to aid the development of Todd Island.
This book is filled with interesting characters. Robert Chapley, the developer who hires Palmer to help him develop the island (at the state’s expense), is a man obsessed with Barbie dolls. This obsession started with him playing with his sister’s dolls and as an adult takes a new twist as he, now with money, sets out to have the real thing. He finds two tall young women from Eastern Europe, Katya and Trish, entices them to move in with him and with the help of a plastic surgeon, begins their transformation into real live Barbies. Chapley’s demise at the end of the book comes at his attempt to obtain a rhino horn, the powder from which his Barbies believe is a great sex drug.

Another interesting character is Clinton Tyree (Skink), an ex-governor who lives off the land in the middle of the Everglades. The current governor seeks his help in finding the eco-terrorist that’s sabotaging the Toad Island project. In the end, Skink and Twilly join forces in bringing about the end of the Todd Island project. The finale occurs on a private game reserve where Chapley is hunting a live rhino. In the party is the current governor, a member of the state legislature, Spree and a couple of guides. The rhino (named El Jefe) is on his death bed, but when Spree’s dog breaks lose from Skink’s hand and charges the rhino, biting its tail, the beast comes alive. Chapley misses his shot, the bullet striking Sloat’s gun, ends up impaled on the rhino’s horn. Sloat, his rifle ruined, is trampled to death by the beast.

As this is my second Hiassen book that I’ve read, there seems to be some patterns to his characters and plot. In both Skinny Dip and Sick Puppy, at least one character has an inheritance large enough to allow them to pay their way as they try to right wrongs. In both books, one of the main characters is a puppet for a more powerful person (Sloat works for Chapley and in Skinny Dip, Chaz worked for Red). In both books, the good guys get off easy; the bad guys get their due. The powerful figures in both books have hired goons that do their dirty work: however, the thug in Skinny Dip changes his way while the thug in Sick Puppy ends up on the wrong side of a bulldozer. Finally, there is a loveable dog in each book. Even with the similarities, I enjoyed both books.

A Side Note: Hiaasen talent is to make unbelievable characters believable. The exception in this book is Estella, the call girl who only does Republicans. I can’t imagine tightfisted Republicans paying good money for sex when they’ve been screwing the entire country for free for the past dozen years. But then again, after Bush, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a tightfisted Republican.

A Side Note #2: Twilly reminds me of Hayduke in Edward Abbey’s novels. Both are essentially eco-terrorists, the difference being that Twilly has money and enjoys a more active sex life than Hayduke. Hiassen seems to relish in the sex lives of his characters and this book is “adult oriented.”
For other book reviews by Sage, click here.
For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.


  1. Anything to do with animals, especially the woof-woof kind, has my attention!

    Finally reading Marley & Me. Was speeding right through it until I started getting into the sad part... now I'm procrastinating reading the final chapters.

  2. I am definitely going to check him out.

  3. I keep being impressed with how you find so much time to do so much reading. Time just seems to run away from me to do much of that. I did though in the last month read "Sailing Acts" by Linford Stutzman in which he tells the story of his retracing the missionary journeys of Paul on the Mediterranean Sea.

  4. Karen, Hiassen makes some interesting comments about dogs--how they've envolved the "look" to obtain human forgiveness...

    Kenju, you'll enjoy him

    Tim, I read half of this book while sitting on an airplane! Probably a 1/3 of the books I read, I actually listen to on ipod (this is one I actually "read" the book).

  5. Sage - he also brings some characters back - Mick from Skinny Dip is in a couple of books, and Skink is a character (along with the sheriff's deputy who looks out for him) in a number of the books

  6. Side note 1 = Ha Ha Ha!

    I have to add these to my reading list.

  7. Great review! Sounds a little like Robbins, Kesey, Abbey, and the rest. Maybe most like Robbins, since his good-guy characters get a lot of lovin', too. I always thought Hiassen was a mystery writer, but I guess I was wrong-o.

  8. Diane--my sister told me about Skink--in the book about corruption in a bass fishing tourney of all things!

    Mistress, I was wondering if that sidenote was going to get anyone's attention

    ing, I have a confession to make, I have never read Robbins--I've read almost everything published by Abbey

  9. Lovable dogs is a must for me. I would never read Cujo.

    Thanks, once again, for reminding me why I have to check out Hiaasen. My daughter is working on a book report for "Flush," his kids book, while I'm typing away.

    I love your reviews...you say just enough to get me interested without revealing too much.

  10. This is my flirtation with this author - he sounds as if he builds characters very much like Ben Elton does and with an ecological/social message hammered on in through the narrative. I will certainly put this in the back of my diary and search him out next year - or perhaps over Christmas. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  11. I suppose this too I beg, borrow or steal. As always, great review!

    BTW, I am going slack on muy reading, what with evaluation of answer sheets. I really hate Exams!

    reading room