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Book review | ‘Coconut Cowboy’ has ‘Looney Tunes’ look at ficticious town

You’ve sunk a lot of money into your humble abode.

The kitchen is perfect for gourmet meals and light snacks alike. The carpet’s new, the furniture is new, you added fencing and a deck. Not even paint is cheap anymore, but in the new book “Coconut Cowboy” by Tim Dorsey, money isn’t all that’s sunk in a house in Florida.

When Peter and Mary Pugliese saw the old Victorian home high up on a hill, they didn’t fall in love with the house as much as they loved the area. From a New Yorker’s point of view, real estate costs in Wobbly, Fla., were incredible; the friendliness of the villagers only added to the charm.

It also helped that Wobbly was close to Peter’s new job as a geologist. With sinkholes as an issue in many Florida areas, he knew his work was important; he was, therefore, quite happy to help his new neighbors when they specifically requested him for a project they were tackling.

As Wobbly’s water commissioner, police chief, councilman, and banker, Vernon Log was glad to see someone like Peter Pugliese move into town. Peter’s expertise could help eliminate the pesky lack of permits to build a subdivision on lots that weren’t stable, and the sooner it was done, the better. With that, plus an illegally-annexed strip of highway, an illegally-run speed trap, and a money-laundering facility under Vernon’s watch, yep, a rube like Peter would be nice to have around.

Where has the American Dream gone? Is it still alive? Those questions bothered Serge Storms and, because questions demand answers, he headed from Louisiana, south, to find out. Lawn darts, historical markers, greasy spoons, they all meant something so, with his sidekick, Coleman, and a modified Harley motorcycle, Serge headed through Florida to take pictures, capture the Dream, and carefully observe.

As a man of dubious morals, Serge liked to make things right. He hated injustice just as much as he hated that a roadside hippo lost its best friend and that entitled jerks drove fancy cars.

And he really, really hated when an innocent man got scammed.

I found it ironically amusing that, early in this book, author Tim Dorsey’s characters talk about old Looney Tunes cartoons. That madcap, improbable, wild-race-around goofiness pretty much perfectly describes “Coconut Cowboy.”

That won’t be any problem to fans of this series: what you’ve come to love is what you get here. New fans, however, need to be warned that this isn’t your normal mystery-ish novel (see above: Looney Tunes). You will, however, come to appreciate Serge Storms for his intelligence, resourcefulness, and for his ability to wreak revenge without being caught. Half the fun, I think, is seeing how he rights those wrongs he finds; the other half is trying to figure out what comes next.

And sometimes, that may not be immediately possible but just go with the flow if you start this novel. Once you get used to the madness, “Coconut Cowboy” is a book you’ll be glad you sunk your teeth into.

At a glance

Title: “Coconut Cowboy”

Author: Tim Dorsey

Publisher: Wm. Morrow

Length: 323 pages

Cost: $25.99 / $31.99 Canada

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