Carl Hiassen's ‘Star Island’ more of the same great thing


“Star Island” is about as classic Carl Hiaasen as it gets. Which is the proverbial double-edged sword.

The negative: It doesn’t deviate much from the usual Hiaasen formula.

The positive: It doesn’t deviate much from the usual Hiaasen formula.

If you’re a Hiaasen fan, you no doubt have come to appreciate his off-the-wall-and-over-the-ceiling humor, and “Star Island” is another look at the madness that is South Florida, filled with plenty of laughs and way too many truths.

The book’s protagonist is a young actress who has been hired to be a life-double for one Cherry Pye, an equally young female million-selling pop star of dubious talent (anyone come to mind?) who has a pesky inability to pass up any kind of alcoholic beverage, prescription or illicit drug or sexual opportunity (anyone else come to mind?).

And so the story progresses fairly predictably: Star repeatedly overdoses or otherwise overindulges, stand-in stands in, star goes to rehab, etc., etc. There are the enabler/profiteer parents, the greedy agent, craven PR people and crazed paparazzi. No spoiler alerts here, because it’s simply art following the pattern of life — at least as the likes of Cherry Pye live it.

In “Star Island,” though, the re-emergence of two classic Hiaasen characters ups the entertainment value exponentially. One is the beloved Skink, a former governor of Florida who quit rather than deal with the unrealities of political reality, decamping to the swamps to camp among the critters. And as in most Hiaasen books, Skink, the ultimate protector of the environment, takes on a few despoilers in this one (though not Cherry Pye, who doesn’t care enough about the environment to either protect it or despoil it).

The other is more of a surprise: Chemo, the bad guy who first appeared in “Skin Tight.” In that book, Chemo had a tough encounter with a barracuda, who bit off his arm. To compensate, he strapped a Weed Whacker to the stump, finding it to be quite a handy tool/weapon. Chemo also is notable as the unfortunate victim of severe facial injuries, followed by incompetent plastic surgery, leaving him with a face that could — and often does — stop traffic, and occasionally sheds a piece. In “Star Island” Chemo becomes Cherry Pye’s bodyguard, taking on her nasty habits, the paparazzi and more.

Anybody who knows Florida knows it is one wacky place. And in “Star Island,” as in his other books, Carl Hiaasen somehow manages to make the madness hilarious.