cover image Native Tongue

Native Tongue

Carl Hiaasen. Alfred A. Knopf, $21 (325pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58796-7

Writing like an Edward Abbey of South Florida, Hiaasen ( Skin Tight ) sets his reluctant journalist hero after a morally corrupt real estate developer planning to build an 18-hole golf course on North Key Largo. Burned out as an investigative reporter for a Miami newspaper, Joe Winder now writes PR releases for the Amazing Kingom of Thrills, a sleazy theme park owned by Francis X. Kingsbury, who hopes to increase his fortune with a nearby golf resort. When Winder learns that the purportedly last living pair of blue-tongued mango voles, recently stolen centerpieces of the Rare Animal Pavilion, are not an endangered species as claimed, he joins the forces opposed to his boss. These include the Mothers of Wilderness, an organization of well-heeled blue-haired activists, and a semi-crazy recluse named Skink, a former Florida governor who has become a sort of Robin Hood of the Keys. Hiaasen keeps a broad cast of zany characters--Winder's girlfriend answers the phone for a call-in porn service; a steroid-crazed, weight-lifting ex-cop ingests hormones from a portable IV--moving at a breakneck clip. Murders (one accomplished by an amorous rogue dolphin), explosive revenge taken on land-moving machinery, the triumphs of love found and principles regained, and the singular environment of the Florida Keys are ingredients of this sometimes scattershot but always inventive entertainment. 50,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Sept.)