Book number two, on the list of Tim Dorsey novels, is another amazing, crazy ride.
Hammerhead Ranch Motel picks up where the first novel, Florida Roadkill, left off. Kind of. True, Serge Storm, the "spree killer" and Florida amateur historian, from the first novel, moves through the Tampa area looking for a briefcase filled with $5M US. Yes, a few other characters from that first novel make an appearance. But the other characters that get swept into Serge's life are much more entertaining. The basis for the plot is the missing $5M. But Dorsey throws in some Medicare fraud, wire fraud, cocaine dealers, a couple of hot female pot heads on the run, a writer for the "Weekly Mail of the News World," bodies falling from the sky, some Hemingway look-a-likes, and a hurricane (just to mix it all up). And most of the action centers around a two bit hotel, the Hammerhead Ranch Motel.
Much like a Tarantino film, this book jumps around in time. One scene, early in the novel, occurs at the Tampa Aquarium, where in a college student falls through the glass roof. It isn't until about midway through the novel that you find out why and how this happens. And just like Tarantino, I let this happen, and don't question it. Later, after finishing the novel, I come to appreciate what it is that I have just witnessed. Also appreciated, is Serge Storm. While not exactly "right in the head," the man will take you on a whirlwind tour of Florida. Forget your guidebooks to Florida, read Dorsey. You will learn much more about the State of Florida than any tour book, and have a good laugh while reading. This time, you take in the sights and historical landmarks of Tampa. And let Serge show you his pictures of sunsets. Truly amazing.
I am really enjoying Dorsey's writing and main characters. In fact, I have the third book on reserve at the library. In this novel, you can tell that he is maturing. There is much more cohesiveness to the story and the characters. He seems to have fleshed both out better before putting pen to paper. The "minor" characters seem better thought out and better drawn. The backstory on Serge is more complete. The setups and payoffs seem to be more plausible. And what an ending (of course, it is "to be continued").
What is it about Florida? Is there really this much material to mine? Are the residents really this . . . strange? Is it truly a state full of criminals and crazy ultra-conservatives? I don't know, but it sure makes for a highly entertaining read. This is one of those novels that may find yourself laughing out loud. Highly recommended.