An unscrupulous marine biologist with "Ken-doll good looks" and "priapic affability," Chaz Perrone was sure he'd seen the last of his wife when he pushed her over the railing of the Sun Duchess cruise ship off the coast of Florida. But Joey Perrone, a former championship swimmer, survived the fall and clung to a bale of Jamaican hashish long enough to be rescued by retired cop Mick Stranahan. Joey wants to know why her husband wanted her dead he feared she was on to his scheme of doctoring Florida Everglades water samples at the behest of ruthless tycoon Red Hammernut. Then, with Stranahan's help, she wants to drive him crazy. From politicians to paparazzi, no reprobate escapes the satirical eye of Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, who writes like the love child of Hunter S. Thompson and Evelyn Waugh.
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Skinny Dip is a caper novel by Carl Hiaasen first published in Set in South Florida in the course of April , it is about a woman, Joey Perrone, who takes revenge on her cheating husband after he has tried to murder her.
It is also one of Hiaasen's more topical novels, since the plot also revolves around the ongoing restoration of the Everglades to a natural habitat. A skinny-dipper is someone who swims in the nude , thus showing all their skin. Skinny Dip refers to the fact that when Joey Perrone is thrown overboard the impact when hitting the surface of the water tears off all her clothes so that on the following morning her rescuer finds her not only completely exhausted but also stark naked.
Also, throughout the novel people find themselves in embarrassing situations due to their — occasionally inexplicable — nakedness. Charles Regis "Chaz" Perrone, PhD, is a young marine biologist who has devoted his life solely to the lazy pursuit of a hedonistic existence. His insatiable greed drives him to collude with Samuel Johnson "Red" Hammernut, a crooked farm tycoon who owns large vegetable fields in Hendry County , north of the Florida Everglades , which he relentlessly pollutes with fertilizer run-off.
Officially employed by the state authorities to test swamp water for pollutants, Chaz is secretly also on Red's payroll, forging the test results and allowing Red to avoid having to cut back on his overuse of fertilizers, or spend large amounts of money on purification. One day, Chaz's wife Joey returns home unexpectedly while he is filling in the doctored figures on a chart. As she has never taken any interest in her husband's work, Joey has no idea what he is doing. However, Chaz is so paranoid that he suddenly fears that she might report him, and begins to meticulously plan a way to murder her.
For their second wedding anniversary , Chaz invites his wife on a cruise and one night, while they are out at sea, throws her overboard. Being an experienced swimmer, Joey survives by managing to turn her fall into a dive, and then swims toward the Florida coast. As her strength gives out, she clings to a floating bale of marijuana for several hours.
The next morning, Joey is rescued by Mick Stranahan, a former investigator with the State Attorney who was forced into early retirement. Mick lives on a small island in Biscayne Bay owned by a successful but aging Mexican novelist. Mick is now in the novelist's pay as a caretaker, leading a solitary life guarding the island. When Joey is presumed dead back on the mainland, Chaz pretends to be a grieving husband.
As no witnesses come forward, the authorities accept his suggestion that Joey either had an accident or committed suicide.
Karl Rolvaag, a Broward County detective investigating the disappearance, is suspicious of Chaz's mannerisms, but can find no motive supporting a suspicion of murder.
Joey is equally baffled, and begs Mick not to report that she is still alive. Since she has no idea yet why he tried to kill her, she doubts that she can convince the police that it was not a drunken accident or attempted suicide. Instead, she wants to find out herself why he did it, and drive her husband to insanity by building on his vanity and paranoia.
Mick agrees with the plan. Joey starts by entering their house while Chaz is at work and leaving traces of herself — negligees and a photo of the couple with her face cut out. Chaz is unsettled enough by these clues that he experiences erectile dysfunction for the first time in his life, which leaves him greatly flustered.
Joey happens to be hiding under the bed when Chaz returns unexpectedly with one of his girlfriends and fails to have sex with her. Red, worried by Chaz's reports of a home intruder, orders one of his employees, an illiterate, heavy-set man called Earl Edward O'Toole, to act as Chaz's bodyguard. As Chaz's mental state deteriorates, his job description changes to "babysitter," to prevent Chaz from exposing Red.
Tool visits nursing homes, pretending to be an employee, and steals fentanyl skin patches off elderly patients' bodies. During one of these expeditions, Tool meets Maureen, a dying woman he befriends. Joey and Mick soon develop a sexual relationship and continue to plan more intricate and sophisticated acts of revenge. Mick has the idea of pretending to blackmail Chaz by inventing a witness to Joey's murder. Chaz is unnerved when a mysterious phone caller seems to know every detail of the night Joey fell overboard, concluding that only Karl could know so much about it.
He confronts Karl with his accusation, leading the baffled detective to become even more suspicious of Chaz. Mick also recruits his brother-in-law, a corrupt lawyer, to draft a fake will leaving Joey's entire fortune to Chaz. Delivering this to Chaz and to the police has the double effect of playing on Chaz's greed, and energizing the stagnating investigation.
Chaz's judgment deteriorates further with each passing day, and he erroneously concludes that his current mistress, Ricca, is the blackmailer's girlfriend and accomplice.
At gunpoint, Chaz drives her out to the swamp at Loxahatchee where, in the dark, he fires at her. Though he only manages to wing her in the leg, Ricca plunges into the water and seemingly drowns.
Unbeknownst to Chaz, she survives and is rescued by a Vietnam veteran who considers the Everglades his home. Both Mick and Karl, working independently, trace the bill of sale of Chaz's expensive Hummer to one of Red's companies, and patient investigation leads them to discover the Everglades scam. Karl does not share his conclusions with his captain. There is no evidence directly linking the scam to Joey's disappearance, but Karl is confident that, in his paranoid state, Chaz will break down and confess to the scam to minimize his own punishment, while Red will foresee this and try to have Chaz eliminated.
Karl has even discovered hints that Joey is still alive — her credit card has been used to buy women's clothes and accessories — but does not share this with Chaz. Meanwhile, a few friends and relatives are let in on the truth and play along with Mick and Joey. Her brother Corbett, a reclusive sheep farmer in New Zealand , flies to Miami and hires a squadron of helicopters to buzz Chaz's Hummer on his way to the Everglades, then arranges a memorial service for Joey at which Chaz is expected to give a speech.
Chaz gets up to deliver a eulogy, but collapses with fright when Ricca enters the church on crutches and sits next to Karl in the audience. Another of Joey's accomplices, a friend from her book club named Rose Jewell, approaches Chaz and offers to console him over dinner at her place.
Expecting an easy lay, Chaz accepts the invitation, only to be drugged by Rose and put to sleep in her bed. Only half awake, Chaz thinks he is hallucinating when he finds his wife sitting at his side asking him reproachfully why he has tried to kill her.
He confesses that he thought she had figured out his scam. She says she had no idea what he was doing and calls him a monster. The following morning, Chaz wakes up from his drug-induced slumber sitting naked at the wheel of his Hummer, which has been parked on the shoulder of a busy road during rush hour. Later he receives a video allegedly recorded on the night of the murder, in which he clearly recognizes his wife although he can see himself only from behind.
The cassette includes a message summoning him to a rendezvous to deliver the blackmail money. Following the blackmailer's instructions, Chaz rents a small boat with an outboard motor and, together with Tool, drives to Stiltsville in the middle of a thunderstorm. Red, who has provided the money, has instructed Tool to kill Chaz well before the meeting with the blackmailer and return the suitcase to him.
However, Tool has other plans: inspired by Maureen, he wants to abandon his life of crime, reform, and become a respectable citizen. But before the blackmailers appear, Chaz shoots Tool, who falls into the water but survives. While Mick and Corbett pull Tool out of the water, Joey confronts her husband. She is tempted to shoot him, but, following Mick's instructions, tells him to get lost. Chaz flees in the boat.
Chaz safely arrives at the mainland with the money and immediately drives home. His new plan is to compose a suicide note , disappear, and start a new life in Costa Rica. Before he can leave, he is snatched out of his house by Red and Tool, hog-tied, and driven to the Everglades, Red having concluded that the "blackmail" was just a con by Chaz to rip him off. On the way home to Red's farm the entrepreneur insults Tool, who takes revenge on his boss in the middle of nowhere by slaying him and impaling his body on a roadside cross of the same type that Tool collects.
Joey decides to stay with Mick on the island. Corbett takes an interest in Ricca and invites her to share some time on his farm in New Zealand. Karl closes the case and moves back to his native Minnesota. Tool is left with all the money. He decides to spend the first part of it on a veterinarian who removes two bullets from his body, and on a new pickup truck in which he embarks on a trip to Canada. He takes along Maureen, who he has rescued from the nursing home at her request, and who wants to see the pelicans migrating.
Chaz is picked up by the semi-deranged Vietnam veteran. In response to Chaz's limp inquiry about what happens next, the veteran replies " Nature, red in tooth and claw. Hiaasen's novels are often classified as "Crime Fiction" or "environmental thrillers" , but they can also be read as satirical and comic mainstream novels depicting people in difficult and outrageous situations triggered by human weaknesses such as greed , lust , ignorance , or revenge.
In his review of Strip Tease , Donald E. Westlake commented that, at the center of all the wackiness was an accessible, touching storyline: a single mother's quest to rescue her young daughter from a reckless husband and an inadequate foster care system.
This gives the novel more focus than some of Hiaasen's other books, which often involve the characters running across each other in random ways, or going on unplanned wanderings across Florida. The other central plot is the fight to save the Everglades, and the role that the villains are playing in its destruction.
Somewhere along the way, the two plot lines converge, and the quest to take revenge on Chaz becomes tied up with the aim of stopping Red's pollution. In other words, the reader is offered a choice of which thing to root for: some readers may think that Chaz's betrayal of the environment for money makes him detestable, but trying to murder his wife is what makes him a true monster; other readers may think the exact opposite. Skinny Dip is also enriched by a variety of subplots: Tool's gradual moral awakening, as he grows closer to a dying old lady who is too proud to admit that she has been abandoned by her family; Karl Rolvaag's longing for his native Minnesota, and his search for his escaped pet pythons ; Chaz's obsession with sex and his desperate attempts to reverse the erectile dysfunction which is his only sign of guilt over Joey's murder, including experimenting with a black-market version of Viagra — "the Food and Drug Administration FDA definitely would not approve.
The novel contains many scenes reminiscent of classic farces. For instance, at one point there are five people in the Perrone house, three of whom are trying to hide their presence from the other: at the center is Chaz and his "back-up" girlfriend Medea, with whom he has just unsuccessfully attempted sexual relations; hiding under the bed is Joey, caught in the middle of another infiltration of the house; Tool is in another part of the house, ordered to protect Perrone but ordered by him to stay out of the way of his date; and finally Mick, who enters in search of Joey and, when he encounters Tool, politely asks him if he's going to try to stop Mick.
Of course I am. In a similar situation, Chaz, expecting sex with Rose, is drunk and drugged and lured into bed, not knowing that the woman he's groping for is in fact his wife. Other funny situations arise out of Chaz's paranoia and ineptness as a killer.
He imagines he's surrounded by enemies, but he always manages to look in the wrong direction. Even when the truth — for example, Joey — is right in front of him, he attributes it to hallucinations caused by the West Nile virus , rather than recognizing it for a sophisticated hoax. In his review of Skinny Dip for The New Republic , Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald criticized the book as being too fictionalized, and potentially misleading, in describing the causes of the Everglades' ecological status.
In Hiaasen's scenario, the Everglades are dying as a result of agricultural contaminants dumped by greedy corporate villains, aided and abetted by corrupt or complacent officials. Grunwald maintains that the state effort to curtail agricultural pollution is separate from the Everglades Restoration Project, and had been largely successful even before the Project commenced in Instead, the biggest threat to the Everglades comes not from corporate pollution or corrupt officials, but rather from "John Q.
Public" — the diversion of freshwater for South Florida's huge municipalities, and the normal waste products associated with such cities. Grunwald says that when conservation efforts should focus on curtailing the effects of public activity, it is misleading and dangerous to lay all the blame on "bad guys" personified by Red Hammernut and Chaz.
On the other hand, Grunwald agrees that it is "smart to be cynical" about Florida politics, "especially all the daily blathering about conserving our precious natural resources. Hiaasen is also scathing about this in the chapter when he briefly summarizes the history of the Everglades, and how ninety percent of it has been destroyed through the course of South Florida's development:.
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Skinny Dip Buy it at Amazon. Buy it at Books-A-Million. Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn't know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and now he's found a way — doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn't die in the fall.
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