Naked Came the Manatee

Carl Hiaasen, Editor, Paul Levine, Author, James W. Hall, With Putnam Publishing Group $22.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-399-14192-8
In late 1995, this highly entertaining mystery novel was serialized for 13 weeks in the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine. Each chapter is written by an author with South Florida connectionsDin order, Dave Barry, Les Standiford, Paul Levine, Edna Buchanan, James W. Hall, Carolina Hospital, Evelyn Mayerson, Tananarive Due, Brian Antoni, Vicki Hendricks, John Dufresne, Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. The convoluted plot involves an astonishing number of characters, coincidences, murders and Fidel Castro headsDwith and without bodies attached. Also featured is a 102-year-old woman who swims naked in Biscayne Bay with Booger, a manatee who may be the most sensitive and intelligent character here. In the chapter written by Dufresne, Booger gloomily considers the ""November in my soul"" during a marvelously introspective manatee soliloquy. Mystery fans will enjoy the interplay between familiar characters like Buchanan's Miami News crime reporter Britt Montero, Levine's brawny lawyer Jake Lassiter and Standiford's building contractor-turned-sleuth John Deal. The story is less important than the pleasures to be gleaned from observing very good writers at play, penning their sardonic love letter to Miami and its environs. The writers maintain a comic, whimsical pace throughout, and Hiaasen feverishly ties up loose ends in a final chapter like a department-store gift wrapper during Christmas rush. A successful experiment in the art of absurdity, this bookDinspired in concept and title by the round-robin novel Naked Came the Stranger (1969), allegedly by ""Penelope Ashe"" but revealed as the handiwork of 25 Newsday editors and reportersDshould be read for the pure fun of it. 100,000 first printing; major ad/ promo; author tours. (Feb.) FYI: The authors' profits will be donated to charity.
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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