Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Star Island

By Carl Hiaasen

Cherry Pye is a young pop star who has a serious drug and alcohol problem. Her favorite activity is getting trashed, so trashed that she often can't perform. Her excesses require frequent stints in rehab, which is not good for her image. So her handlers hired a lookalike as a stand in to cover up the seriousness of Cherry's addictions. The lookalike makes brief public appearances at parties and events while Cherry is confined to rehab.
Cherry is on the verge of releasing a new CD and is preparing for a concert in Miami. Once again, she overdoses on a crazy mixture of drugs, booze and birdseed, requiring a secret trip back to rehab. Her handlers smuggle her out of the back door of the hotel, while her double is taken out the front on a stretcher, posing as Cherry suffering from a violent attack of gastritis.
One of the score of photographers that chase after that winning celebrity candid shot is Claude Abbott. Abbott is a true fan of Cherry Pye's and, knowing her crash and burn lifestyle, he is pretty sure Cherry is about at the end of her road and he really wants to be there to cash in on her celebrity when she finally goes too far. He follows her to the rehab clinic and offers her a ride in his car when she sneaks away from the clinic. Together, they fly back to Florida and Cherry initiates sex with him (she is trashed and later doesn't remember the incident at all). But when they arrive in Florida, she drives off in a limo that has the bag containing Abbott's cameras and cell phone, leaving Abbott stranded.
Meanwhile, Cherry's double is having problems of her own. Since Cherry is supposed to be secured in rehab, the double, Ann, has been given some time off and has driven to the Florida Keys. But she crashes her rental car and finds herself captive of a strange loner called Skink. Skink used to be governor of Florida but the uncontrolled land development sent him off the deep end and he ran away, to live off the land in the swamps. He has grabbed Ann in an attempt to foil a development scheme and is using her as bait to lure the developer into his grasp. Ann eventually is released only to be captured by crazed photographer Abbott who thinks he is grabbing Cherry Pye. But when he finds out Ann is not who he thought,  he hits upon the idea of exchanging Ann for a one-day photo shoot with Cherry that he is sure will be the best work he has ever done and result in fame and acclaim and, of course, lots of money. But are Cherry's handlers all that worried about the fate of her double? Not so much, it turns out.

This was a pretty good story. Unlike some of his novels, this one does not have as many cruel and gruesome scenes, the gore limited to a shot-off finger, some ass-whipping with a weed-whacker, a spiny urchin applied to a man's testicles and one fatal shooting. That sounds like a lot, but compared to some of Hiaasen's books, it is quite toned down. It is also very entertaining and often amusing, although at times a bit chaotic. I enjoyed it and at the end of the novel he wraps up the lives of the main characters, letting you know how they ended up. That was fun and nice.

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