J.S.'s Reviews > Skin Tight

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen
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Oct 16, 08

Recommended for: Anybody with a love of social satire
Read in October, 2008, read count: 1

Carl Hiaasen sometimes teeters back and forth between black humor and just plain black. His situations are occasionally too disturbing to be funny, or simply uncomfortable to read. However, with Skin Tight, he's found his balance (I haven't read many of his other novels, so maybe he's normally like this, but after this one, I'm bound to read more). The characters are all perfectly bizarre, and yet they manage to act like real human beings. Even the hit man burned in an electrolysis accident, who is repeatedly described as looking like he had rice krispies glued to his face, does not strain the tricky suspension of disbelief that comedic books should uphold.

The story is relatively simple, for a book that's categorized at my local library as a 'mystery'. Mick Stranahan, a former Florida investigator, is attacked in his reclusive stilt house off the coast of Miami, and dispatches the hit man with a stuffed marlin head. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, as Stranahan is forced to defend himself with whatever possible against an increasingly-hostile plastic surgeon who believes he has incriminating evidence of a botched nose job.

One of the best things about this book is the element of social satire running through it, specifically targeting the vanity of cosmetic surgery and shady medical practices in general. Trust me, if you're thinking that your jaw isn't at the perfect angle, or you want some excess fat sucked out of your belly, read this book. It will turn you off to the idea of plastic surgery for the rest of your life, and that's definitely a good thing.

Another expert send-up goes to Geraldo Rivera, and other journalists of his ilk. A reporter named Reynaldo Flemm is tracking the story surrounding the questionable surgeon, but he leaves all the real journalism to his producer, Christina Marks, while he simply preens himself and tries to get injured on camera for shock value and ratings.

Easily the most memorable character in the book is the next hit man in line to take down Stranahan: Chemo, the seven-foot tall rice krispy-faced killer. His back story, and the events that shape him throughout the book, are laugh-out-loud funny, and I don't often get that from reading. None of the characters are what I'd call forgettable, but he stands out as the most unusual - and yet oddly sympathetic - villain that I can currently think of.

If you're looking for a serious mystery, there aren't many twists and turns, as the story follows the antagonists just as much or more than the protagonists. Hiaasen doesn't conceal much from the reader, but he makes up for it with incredible characters and moments of pure hilarity.
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