Modern manners

<strong>Nature Girl</strong>

Carl Hiaasen <em>Bantam Press, 320pp, £12.99</em>

ISBN 0593057317

Carl Hiaasen's books are peopled with insane and imbalanced characters who are bizarre and hilarious. In Nature Girl, Honey Santana has stopped taking her medication and seeks revenge on a world controlled by telemarketers; the ensuing plot is her personal battle against "the erosion of manners in modern society".

Boyd Shreave is a part-time telemarketer who is about to be taught a lesson. Along with his mistress, Eugenie Fonda, and followed by a private investigator hired by his wife, Boyd finds himself lured by Honey to Dismal Key, one of the Everglades' Ten Thousand Islands. It is also the hideout of Sammy Tigertail, half descendant of a Seminole Indian chief, half Irish. Into the equation comes Honey’s unhinged former work colleague, the semi-mutilated Louis Piejack, and her disturbingly protective

ex-husband, Perry Skinner.

Hiaasen possesses a Shakespearean mastery of the insult. A character might be described as a "philandering shitweasel" or (my personal favourite) "a rectal ulcer". Add to this a remarkable talent for improving upon the common cliché – "Sometimes life is a shit-flavoured popsicle" – and Hiaasen's satirical wizardry is constantly entertaining.

This article first appeared in the 29 January 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Climate change