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Book review: Dorsey's serial killer avenges 'The Pope of Palm Beach'


‘The Pope of Palm Beach’ By Tim Dorsey, Morrow, 352 pages, $26.99

Who knew that Serge A. Storms, the so-called hero -- actually more an anti-hero -- of Tim Dorsey’s comic mysteries was such a bibliophile? But that makes sense because how else did Serge become such a lover — and defender — of Florida history. Serge, now making his 21st appearance in Dorsey’s series, is a serial killer who only preys on jerks, criminals and those who disrespect Florida and its history.

In “The Pope of Palm Beach,” Serge and his childhood friend Coleman (we finally have a first name for him — Seymour!) begin a literary tour of the Sunshine State, starting in the Florida Keys. He’s not so interested in Hemingway, but Thomas McGuane, about whose “92 in the Shade” Serge says, “He knew all about this place you have here long before it was a thing.” And from there, Serge visits the spots that loomed large in novels by Charles Willeford, Elmore Leonard and a few others. There’s also a stop at a bookstore in Delray Beach that specializes in mysteries.

But Serge doesn’t just have his nose stuck in a book. Along the way, he metes out his brand of justice on a pharmaceutical company’s arrogant president who jacks up the price of a pill that could save babies. And woe to those jerks who like to torment sea turtles and destroy the nests.

The Pope of the title was a legendary surfer in the 1960s whose skills were tragically cut short, and who will be avenged by Serge. The Pope also gives Serge a chance to delve into the history of Riviera Beach.

Dorsey’s series is Florida-centric, yet his books sell nationally, and his book tours — even in Arizona — are packed.

“The Pope of Palm Beach” has one of Dorsey’s best openings: “The sun was going down behind the Big Burger when the alligator came flying in the drive-through window.” While “The Pope of Palm Beach” has many such laugh-out-loud moments, the comedy also stalls in several chapters. It’s almost a minor miracle that Dorsey has sustained the humor through 21 novels, although Three Stooges, whose humor Dorsey emulates, kept up their shtick for decades.

Meet the author

Tim Dorsey will discuss “The Pope of Palm Beach” at the following venues: 4 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Jupiter Library, 705 Military Trail, Jupiter, 561-744-2301; at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Palm Beach Gardens Library, 11303 Campus Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, 561- 626-6133; at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790,; at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at Barnes & Noble, 591 S. University Drive, Plantation, 954-723-0489; at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-442-4408,

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at

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