"Tiger Shrimp Tango" By Tim Dorsey, Morrow, 320 pages, $25.99
At the beginning of Tim Dorsey's 17th outing with Florida madman Serge A. Storms, there's a hint, just a soupcon, that the Tampa author may be veering a bit more into sophisticated humor. Maybe, just maybe, his pie-in-your-face sense of humor might be sharpening to a more acerbic brand of wit.
The moment comes when former cop turned private eye Mahoney (just Mahoney, taking up with Serge tends to make one lose a first name) is using the most clichéd and funny similes to describe his work. These are, of course, riffs on those phrases used by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler back in the day. But Mahoney's tone is more playful, such as "air coming through my window was heavy with heat, humidity and double crosses" or a client who "knocked on my door like knuckles hitting wood."
But Dorsey quickly changes gears in "Tiger Shrimp Tango," delivering the kind of out-of-control approach we expect — and truth be told — want from him. Dorsey's banana-peel-on-the-floor brand of humor works for him, much better than a well-turned phrase. Leave the rapier wit to Carl Hiaasen, with whom Dorsey will never be confused.
In "Tiger Shrimp Tango," Dorsey actually has a plot, one that goes off on tangents, that occasionally gets confusing, but a plot, nonetheless.
This time Serge, the serial killer who wreaks havoc on those who don't respect Florida or its history, takes after the myriad scams that plague the Sunshine State. Serge is tired of seeing innocent people fleeced out of their money, their self-respect or their faith in others. He's especially upset when some of those scams turn fatal for the innocent victims.
Besides, these scam artists reinforce Florida's already wacky reputation and that is something that Serge will not tolerate. Scams that involve dating, tax returns, mortgages, obituaries, fraudulent FBI agents, the homeless, cancer survivors and disasters are just a few that Serge wants to wipe out. Politics, perhaps the biggest scam of all, government conspiracies and just plain old rudeness also are in Serge's cross hairs.
Each of Dorsey's novels are a valentine to Florida as Serge soaks up every corner of the state, from Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Keys, through Orlando, up to the Panhandle and all points in between.
And next time you are at a hotel and get a call that is allegedly from the front desk, telling you to immediately vacate your room and spray yourself with the foam from the fire extinguisher, verify that call. Or else you will go back to your room, covered with foam and discover all your possessions are gone.
And Serge won't be around to help you.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the author
Tim Dorsey, pictured, will discuss "Tiger Shrimp Tango" at the following venues:
3 p.m. Monday Feb. 10 at the Boynton Beach Library, 208 S. Seacrest Blvd., 561-742-6390.
6:30 p.m. Monday Feb. 10 at the Palm Beach Gardens Library, 11303 Campus Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, 561-626-6133.
7 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 11 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790.
7 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 12 at the Barnes & Noble, 11820 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines, 954-441-0444.