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Star Island, By Carl Hiaasen

There's double trouble in the sunshine state

It has been just over four years since Carl Hiaasen's last novel for adults, and the UK release of his new one couldn't be timed any better, coming as it does a week after conservative activists launched a multi-pronged assault on Barack Obama's green agenda.

As a columnist for the Miami Herald, Hiaasen has spent years railing at political railroading in Florida which has resulted in the desecration of the Everglades. Many of his novels have had similar themes, providing the background for wickedly inventive, darkly comic, multiple-stranded narratives that made him the poster boy for Florida noir. So it's something of a shame that the great outdoors is but a throwaway plot device in Star Island, which instead levels its sights a little lower, at the cult of celebrity.

Satirising young stars in the Lindsay Lohan/Britney Spears mould is akin to shooting fish in the proverbial, but Hiaasen does do it with some élan. His story revolves around Cherry Pye, a drugged-up sex addict who looked good enough to a paedophilic record-company executive to be signed up as the next big thing. Because she spends the majority of her time bombed out, her parents have retained an actress, Ann DeLusia, to pass for her at the parties she really should be attending.

While DeLusia is out in the boonies (here comes the eco bit) she does her best not to drive over a man kneeling in the road. For Hiaasen fans, it should come as no surprise that this man is Skink – the former state governor-turned-wild man, who is one of the writer's greatest, most long-standing creations. He envelops the actress in a plot to take apart a property developer who has ripped through his beloved home in the mangroves.

This particular side-plot is all over in a matter of pages, but does allow DeLusia to call on Skink when she falls into trouble with an unsavoury paparazzo-turned-incompetent kidnapper who sees in Cherry Pye (and by extension DeLusia) a chance to make his fortune.

The prose fair whips along, and a host of supporting players lifts the novel – from a contract killer who turns on his employer, to Chemo, a seven-foot behemoth with a garden strimmer for an arm, transplanted from 1989's Skin Tight. But while Star Island is undoubtedly better than the recent, strangely lazy Hiaasen efforts Nature Girl and Skinny Dip, its subject matter is too slight to allow it to hit the heights of his early work. For fans, it is a must; but for novices: try Tourist Season or Native Tongue instead.

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