Humorous mystery has a complicated plot

By: 
Jan Jones
Columnist

While on InfoSoup, I noticed a comment stating that a series of books by Tim Dorsey were very similar to those by Carl Hiaasen. Since I’m a fan of Hiaasen’s quirky characters, I immediately downloaded Dorsey’s “Triggerfish Twist.”

I should have found book one instead of starting with book four in the series. The cast of characters is enormous, so keeping track of them was a real challenge. I can’t begin to do justice to the story, but I will give you a thumbnail sketch.

Jim Davenport is one of those invisible people who keep businesses running smoothly. As an efficiency consultant, he visits businesses and makes suggestions for improvements. His wife, Martha, is a stay-at-home mom with little interest in what Jim does. Her focus is on raising their snarky teen, Debbie, scrawny 10-year-old, Melvin, and 1-year-old, Nicole.

When asked to take over a new territory in Florida, Jim jumps at the opportunity. Jim may be good at consulting, but his optimism and naïve trust prevents him from doing the research required for such a move.

Things begin to go sideways before they even reach 888 Triggerfish Lane, but the Davenports are blissfully unaware of what’s going on around them. Almost immediately nosy neighbor Gladys appears, spewing information about the neighbors. Apparently, most of the houses have been purchased by one man and converted to rentals. That explains how Jim found such a nice house for a low price.

The street is home to a wide range of people. Imagine a street populated by wasted college kids, a man with known drug ties, a metal artist, a lonely man who used to be wealthy, several retirees, and Jack Terrier, a nasty man who fusses over his lawn while allowing his ill-tempered dog to roam the neighborhood.

As the Davenports are unpacking, another group is on the move. Serge A. Storm and his “crew,” Coleman and Sharon, need a place to lay low after Sharon accidently killed a man she was robbing. She then accidentally blew up the motel they were in.

Sharon is a voluptuous coke addict who’ll do almost anything to score drugs. Coleman is a pudgy pothead who uses beer and marijuana to maintain a constant buzz. Coleman doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Serge is the undisputed leader, and he is always hatching plans to keep them housed, fed and supplied with drugs.

One wouldn’t expect it, but Serge has managed to educate himself on a wide array of subjects. When he’s off his meds, he often displays righteous indignation like violence against those who offend him or harm the innocent.

When this bunch rents a house from a crooked Realtor, they turn the tables on the man and embark on a spree of retribution after Jack Terrier humiliates Melvin’s baseball team.

At the heart of the side stories is Jim’s mistake in buying a damaged Suburban from a shady car dealership. Its malfunctioning glove box kills a would-be kidnapper. The dead man was one of the infamous McGraw brothers. Now out of prison, the remaining brothers swear vengeance on Jim. Add the FBI to this mix and mayhem is sure to follow.

Soon the Davenports, McGraws, Serge, the FBI and a host of others are on a collision course. When they do collide, the results are both hilarious and tragic.

If you decide to try one of Tim Dorsey’s books, be patient. The number of characters and their relationships can be confusing, so be ready to go back and reread some chapters.

Some worthwhile books take a little extra time, but it is time well spent.

AT A GLANCE

Book: Triggerfish Twist (Serge Storms, Book 4)

Author: Tim Dorsey

Publisher: HarperTorch

Year published: 2003

Number of pages: 400