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Tim Dorsey
Pineapple Grenade
William Morrow / HarperCollins
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-061-87690-5
Publication Date: 01-24-2012
346 Pages; $25.99
Date Reviewed: 03-30-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index: Mystery  General Fiction  

Certain skills cannot be denied; comic timing, word density and the balance of language, manic inventiveness, the ebb and flow of plot and character to keep the reading lively. These are the skills that decide whether the book will make you smile or force an inadvertent laugh-out-loud response. But beyond these it's a matter of taste. Because, I have to admit, you've got to be a certain sort of person to enjoy Tim Dorsey's comedic mysteries. Here is the opening phrase of his latest novel,' Pineapple Grenade' : "A prosthetic leg with a Willie Nelson bumper sticker on it..."

If that image makes you smile, or better yet, laugh, you're in. If you haven't read Dorsey's Serge Storms novels, you might want to choose this moment to start with 'Florida Roadkill.' But don't let mere chronological order deter you, because chaos and disorder are the order of the day when you start messing around with Dorsey's Serge Storms. The short version is, he kills people (generally bad guys) in very inventive ways, and manages to make a living at it, even in this rotten economy. It might inspire you, but if it does, it’s probably best not to admit it. Storms rights wrongs but commits so many of the latter himself, in a Hunter Thompson-esque oblivion, that the whole "Robin Hood" vibe is pretty well undermined. But if you’re looking for a funny, violent, profane novel, then Dorsey's your man.

'Pineapple Grenade' finds Serge Storms and his pot-smoking sidekick Coleman signing themselves into the world of espionage while they take a whack at tourist crime. What starts out seeming like a series of random choices on the parts of both Serge and the author entertainingly coalesce into a shaggy-dog plot with South American dictators, gun runners, inept American spies, Big Oil, drug tests and one set-piece after another involving means of killing that would make Rube Goldberg green with envy. Dorsey is a master at injecting events into his plot that at first seem so random as to be humorously absurd. But over time, those random events become intrinsic plot points. While it all seems very fast and loose, the level of skill Dorsey brings to the novel is really quite impressive. 'Pineapple Grenade' is first-class hyper-violent farce.

Serge and Coleman are our guides through a wild, upside-down anti-tour guide to the weirdest parts of Florida you can hope to see only in your imagination. Serge is almost childlike in his wonder and enthusiasm, and the latter is infectious, so long as you don’t mind all the violence. He dives into every day, every moment, every task with a gusto that is alarming and out-of-proportion, but almost innocently charming — even if he's figuring out a way to remove the internal organs of a victim without leaving any external evidence of having done so. Coleman is a pot-smoking goofball whose spacey oblivion provides the perfect counterspin. Beyond these two, 'Pineapple Grenade' sports a series of characters who are farcically outrageous but have enough stuff to seem real and fit in well with Serge and Coleman.

Prose and language itself are the real stars here. Dorsey makes the novel look so easy you'll not question what he's doing or how he's doing it. Now, the level of violence is quite high, and if that's a showstopper, then this is not the book you are looking for. But if those words bring a smile to your face, prepare to be thoroughly satisfied. Dorsey is a skillful writer with a rather laconic style of delivery, other than those times when Serge gets to go off on one of his rants. It's only after you finish the novel that you might, just might realize that Dorsey has been ranting, with a surgical precision. 'Pineapple Grenade' is an indication of just how versatile the mystery genre can be, and just how funny violence can be — so long as you're not one of the folks that Serge Storms sees as the starting point for his next DIY project.

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