Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review of Mangrove Squeeze by Laurence Shames (Ballantine, 1998)

Aaron Katz has packed in his Wall Street job and headed to Key West with his elderly father to take over a rotting guest house, The Mangrove Arms.  Suki Sperakis is a College dropout who’s drifting through life, presently selling ad space for a local freebie paper.  She’s intrigued as to how all the Russian-owned t-shirt shops manage to turn a profit, suspecting they’re a front for laundering money.  Using her job as a cover she starts to investigate.  In the meantime, she meets Aaron and Eros casts his spell.  Then she disappears, seemingly the victim of the Russian mafia.  Along with his inventor father, his friend ex-mafiosa Bert the Shirt, and Pineapple and Fred, two vagrants who live in a ex-hotdog van, Aaron sets out to rescue Suki and take on the bad guys.  

During the 1990s Laurence Shames published a series of standalone comic noir novels set in Key West, Florida.  Mangrove Squeeze was the fifth.  In the tradition of Carl Hiassen and Tim Dorsey, Shames sets ordinary people in the crazy underbelly of Florida, interacting with a motley crew of colourful characters as they’re caught up in a madcap escapade.  So it is with Mangrove Squeeze, with Aaron and Suki taking on plutonium smuggling Russian mafia aided by two philosopher vagrants, a retired mafiosa, and Aaron’s dementia suffering inventor father.  The result is a tightly told tale that rattles along at a fair clip.  There’s no major surprises and it’s all a little predictable, but nonetheless it’s enjoyable jaunt, made-so, I feel, by its engaging assemble of well drawn actors and their interactions.  And there are some genuinely amusing moments, especially Fred and Piney ruminating on life, the universe, and whatever else comes to mind.

1 comment:

Rick Robinson said...

I'd forgotten all about these books, thanks for the reminder. I'll keep an eye out for them at the used book store.