Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen – a review

In a break from my usual reading fare (in that the author has absolutely no connection with the Harrogate festival) I have recently read Carl Hiaasen’s novel Tourist Season.

This was recommended by a friend, and was the first Carl Hiaasen I’d read, it was also the first one he wrote. The story is set in Florida and follows the fortunes of ex newspaper journalist turned group leader, Skip Wiley, who is trying to scare off tourists with a range of bizarre crimes. He is helped by an ex-football player, an American Indian, and a failed terrorist who has been kicked out of other gangs for being useless. They are tracked by another journalist who has turned private investigator, Brian Keyes.

It does need to be said firstly that this book was written back in 1986 and therefore did have a certain element of feeling a little dated. That is not a criticism however as I suspect the same could be said of a lot of books. (Unlike Red Dwarf which if any of you recently watched the start of series x, you’ll know is utterly timeless and works just as well no matter what the year!)

I enjoyed this book, but didn’t love it. It started well, the story was interesting and it picked up pace pretty quickly. I thought it was amusing in parts, and some of the more outlandish ways to commit crime did amuse me – especially when a pet crocodile appeared. I felt the book was a bit long though. Without giving away the plot in case there is anyone left that hasn’t read this yet, the final ‘twist’ could really have been done without.

It was called a ‘crime caper’ which is a pretty good description, although I think personally the emphasis was more on caper than crime. There wasn’t the element of ‘whodunnit’ that is found in my usual crime, it was more about the when and where. That did make for a nice change though, and I enjoyed the lighthearted aspect of the novel.

One slight criticism is that I felt some of the relationships seemed a bit odd. I read the book believing that Brian Keyes was a middle aged, balding old man, however further into the book he has a relationship with a young beauty queen. Either I was wrong in my assumption, or it was a bad bit of writing.

Living in York, which is a city geared around tourists, I can sympathise with the basis of this novel (although I’m not suggesting we scare them off with poisonous snakes) however I still couldn’t drum up much sympathy for any of the characters or their cause.

Many years ago I read Ben Elton’s ‘Stark’ and although my memory of that has faded, I remember enjoying it, and Tourist Season reminded me of that with its ‘eco’ message.

Overall I was a little disappointed with this book, but  I suspect my disappointment is mainly that I had very high expectations of a laugh out loud novel, whereas it was just an amusing crime story but as Rimmer would say ‘hey ho, pip and dandy’. I would try another of this authors books , as I certainly enjoyed it and would hope that like anything Carl Hiaasen’s novels improve with practice.

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