August 28, 1995 12:00 PM

by Carl Hiaasen

It’s never very sunny in Hiaasen’s Florida. But in this novel the post-hurricane landscape is littered with “broken trees and utility poles, heaps of lumber and twisted metal,” to say nothing of “a typewriter and a tangle of golf clubs and a cedar hot tub, split in half like a coconut husk.” No surprise, then, that the tempest has also shaken loose a platoon of the author’s wackiest characters.

Chief among them is Skink, the one-eyed former governor who appeared in two previous Hiaasen books. Energized by the storm (which he spends tied to a bridge), Skink emerges from the Everglades to kidnap one of Dade County’s more offensive tourists, a honeymooning New York ad exec. Nearby, a nasty ex-con has joined forces with a gorgeous con artist in a plot to steal somebody else’s home insurance. (This is not, to her credit, Edie Marsh’s first choice for making money. She has spent the last six months in Palm Beach trying to sleep with a Kennedy.)

It says a lot about Hiaasen’s view of humanity that his most likable character is a guy with the “perhaps unwholesomely exhilarating” hobby of juggling human skulls. By book’s end, our hero will add to his collection—but not before Hiaasen drags in a runaway bride, some storm-addled monkeys and a roof inspector who has never been known to climb a ladder.

The author, a Miami Herald columnist whose last book, Striptease, will soon be a movie starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds, provides his characteristic, incongruously happy ending. Despite Hiaasen’s crusading tone (a Florida native, he sees evil lurking in the heart of every developer) and deadpan style (“The death of Tony Torres did not go unnoticed by homicide detectives, crucifixions being rare even in Miami”), there’s something gently romantic about his writing. Raucous, scathing but never mean-spirited, Stormy Weather goes a long way toward securing Hiaasen’s place as America’s premier satirist. (Knopf, $24)

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