Book Review: Razor Girl
Carl Hiaasen brings the Florida Man of tabloid headlines into his criminal swampland with gut-bustingly funny results
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Nov. 4, 2016
"Florida Man attempts to smoke crack in ICU, almost burns down hospital." "Florida Man bites off neighbor's ear because he wouldn't give him a cigarette." So mind-numbingly hysterical has the flood of headlines been these past few years, it's inspired blogs, Twitter pages, websites, and even a documentary. It stands to reason the author who would bring the criminally stupid Florida Man and better half Florida Woman to the literary world would be America's best contemporary satirist Carl Hiaasen, who's plumbed his native Florida to illuminate (as Entertainment Weekly put it) "the great American subjects of ambition, greed, vanity, and disappointment." In Razor Girl's case, he's created a particularly cunning Florida Woman: Merry Mansfield, a con artist whose scams involving car crashes and shaving her pubes lends the book its name. The novel's Florida Man, a psychotic petty criminal going by Blister who's obsessed with Buck Nance, star of a Duck Hunters-style redneck reality show called Bayou Brethren, is not so cunning. As a bizarre kidnapping/blackmail scam unfolds, Hiaasen weaves in more sharply defined characters: Andrew Yancy, the detective introduced in Bad Monkey, now busted down to a Health Department inspector hoping to win back his badge via a high-profile homicide case; Brock Richardson, a Miami product-liability lawyer hooked on an anti-erectile dysfunction deodorant he's litigating against; Martin Trebeaux, owner of Sedimental Journeys, an operation stealing sand from one beach to counter erosion on another; and kidnap victim Nance, who morphed from his Wisconsin accordionist origins to helm Bayou Brethren. As the plot thickens, so does the absurdity. The backstory asides Hiaasen drops throughout these pages are so richly detailed, they could create several separate novels in and of themselves. Razor Girl's results are as gut-bustingly funny as any Florida Man headline, minus the accompanying sensation of your IQ shrinking.
Razor Girlby Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf, 352 pp., $27.95
Carl Hiaasen will speak about Razor Girl on Sat., Nov. 5, 11:30am, at First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca.