Sooner or later, living in Florida will make you want to kill somebody. For countless readers, Serge Storms has provided a way to avoid jail time that works even better than a "stand your ground" defense: Let Serge act out for you.
Tiger Shrimp Tango is the 17th book by Tampa writer Tim Dorsey in the crime-comedy series featuring Serge, an energetic fan of Florida history and arcana, and also an ingenious serial killer. Like Dexter Morgan, another fictional Florida murderer with a cause, Serge chooses his victims with care.
In this book, he's mainly after a gang of scam artists that includes "dating bandits" and burglars who sack the homes of the recently deceased during their funerals. There's also the occasional blackmailer — one so egregious that not only is Serge after him, but a convention of his victims (they get tote bags and ID badges when they meet) gathers in Miami to hunt him down.
Serge's cheerfully lethal pursuit of the bad guys is, as always, an excuse for Dorsey to send him racing (his favorite verb) around the state in a 1978 Firebird Trans Am with a winged skull — wings shaped like Florida, natch — on its hood, Serge expounding upon the local history at every stop to his intrepid, usually at least partially conscious stoner buddy, Coleman.
Many Florida notables pass through this tale, including Coral Castle builder Edward Leedskalnin, mobster Santo Trafficante and a fictional (I think) cyber investigator named Wesley Chapel, who can find out just about anything by combing through public records and "databases purchased from numerous companies who valued their customers' privacy."
While visiting Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' farm near Gainesville, Serge notes that she "bought this joint in 1928 and wrote The Yearling. But mainly she was one of those rare pioneers who preached the joy of undisturbed Florida. Today, undisturbed Florida means a place that has only one titty bar."
Serge normally hates the new, but he is momentarily enthralled with the miniature depiction of the state at Legoland, at least until "total plastic-block hegemony" gets him down.
The novel gets its title from a scene in a restaurant on "Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, the non-working-capital capital of the United States." The restaurant is so excruciatingly hip its name is a period — the punctuation mark. At this temple of molecular gastronomy, order the shrimp cocktail and the waiter brings you a microscope through which you gaze upon shrimp molecules. Lunch for two rings up at $693.
Serge concocts his trademark unique causes of death, including ostrich, exploding Mentos, Cuban cigars and an ironic twist on those restaurant lobster tanks that let you grab your own shellfish with a mechanical claw.
I did suffer one disappointment while reading Tiger Shrimp Tango. Early in the book, Serge tells Coleman they have to attend the Republican convention in Tampa, so they can reunite the country. "And if I'm really lucky," he says, "I might run into Sarah Palin so I can help her out. . . . Because the woman of my dreams has fallen on hard times."
The mind boggles, even if you're not Coleman. But alas, Serge's short attention span strikes again. Maybe next book.