Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey

Title: Electric Barracuda
Author: Tim Dorsey
ISBN: 978-0-06-187689-9
Pages: 368
Release Date: February 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Crime Fiction; Humor
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Summary: Serge Storms, that loveable thermonuclear vigilante and one-stop-Florida-trivia-shop, has been leaving corpses strewn across the Sunshine State for more than a decade. The authorities—especially one tenacious state agent—have begun to notice the exponential body count, and send a police task force to track down Serge. Could his luck finally have run out?

Meanwhile, armed with his perpetually baked sidekick, Coleman, Serge decides to blitz the state and resurrect his Internet travel-advice website—which, of course, must be the finest and the final word on trekking the Sunshine State. To up the ante, Serge concocts a theme vacation for his cyberspace audience. And that theme? You, too, can experience Florida through the eyes of a fugitive.

So gas up the car, say good-bye to the relatives, and join Serge on the lam as he drives straight for the deepest bowels of Florida to unravel the final mysteries of Electric Barracuda.

My Thoughts: Electric Barracuda is many different genres. It's a buddy story, a detective story, a thriller and a travel guide with lots of social commentary told with a sense of humor bordering on the perverse. Tim Dorsey's story focuses on a laugh-out-loud riveting action-packed police chase across Florida. Included are hilarious capers involving madcap disguises and hijinx the likes of which aren't usually a part of detective fiction. But most police investigations don't involve hunting down characters like Serge Storms and his trusty, but chemically altered and dim-witted sidekick, Coleman. The police are hot on Serge’s trail, believing him responsible for many murders in the Sunshine State. The problem for the police agents is that Serge is always at least one-step a head of them. And the murders they believe he’s responsible for, well, let’s just say the “victims” aren’t going to be missed by too many, being less than savory sorts.

Tim Dorsey keeps the story moving at a quick pace with a variety of intersecting stories and crazy occurrences. Comparisons to Carl Hiassen are inevitable, and somewhat warranted. Through Serge, Dorsey conveys a lot of the same concerns regarding man’s destruction of the nature that's left in Florida, hitting on the corruption and outright stupidity that seem to abound down there, and has provided enough fodder for numerous books. Many of which seem to prefer to tell the tales with a comic twist, probably because it’s all too tragic, otherwise. Is Dorsey funnier than Hiassen? In a lot of ways, yes. He’s also a lot more “wild”, in Electric Barracuda anyway. That’s not to say he’s unfocused. It’s just that this tale seems a lot more “out there” and asks us to suspend a great deal more belief than Hiassen ever has, at least to my recollection.

This is not a criticism. Once I was on board, I wished I was alongside Serge for real. Serge and Coleman were having too much fun! Then, add in a hyperactive five (and a half) year old boy who Serge supercharges with sugar, ultimately having to put him on a leash, which the boy promptly chews through, thereby requiring a chain, and all the bits are in place for a bug-eyed, nutty adventure.

In what aspects of reality, exactly, do we need to suspend our belief? First, I suppose, would be that anyone, no matter how intelligent, would go out of their way to kill as grotesquely and well thought out (in terms of poetic justice) as Serge does and do so with relish. And, on top of that, manage to not get caught. Especially with a child in tow. Or with anyone like Coleman. Or that someone like Coleman even actually exists. Or if they did, that they would mange to still be functioning past the half way point of the story. There’s also a high ranking law enforcement official who speaks only in 1930’s slang. That an incompetent boob bounty hunter, named the Doberman (the satirical reference is pretty obvious) would have a TV. show at all, let alone one as successful as the one in the book. There are the fortunate run-ins with friends willing to help, and more than anyone’s share of close calls. And, in the interest of brevity, that more people in the story are not eaten by alligators. But what’s great about this book is that it all works. It has to because it’s clear the characters, the writer, and anyone with a sense of humor reading the book is having too good a time to have some kind of “probability” bring everything to a screeching halt before all the mysteries raised are answered.

Last but not least, Tim Dorsey also provides a bit of a South Florida mob history lesson involving Al Capone and the Everglades sprinkled throughout the story. So, if you like your detective stories with more than a touch of the absurd and have a terrific sense of humor, I highly recommend Electric Barracuda.

Be sure to visit Tim Dorsey’s fun, colorful website!

I received an arc copy of Electric Barracuda from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.


  1. I THINK I've read this (or actually listened to it on audio). Or is this a series? I'm too lazy to go look. But I distinctly remember the wackiness, and laughing my butt off through the entire book. I didn't care if it was out there (and let's be honest, we have alot of people in Florida that are out there), it was just one of those reads that you need to lighten things up. Like Stephanie Plum.

  2. Sometimes absurd works for me and sometimes it doesn't. I'm on the fence on this one.

  3. It's become so difficult for me to suspend disbelief any more but it sounds like this is one that just might be able to do it.

  4. I was actually thinking about this in relation to Hiassen's writing while reading your initial paragraph. It sounds like this would be a really fun and madcap adventure, and I think I would love to read it. Thanks for the great review on this one. I will have to look out for it!

  5. "what's great about it is that is all works" - I think that really says it all! This book is a crazy mix of crazy events and crazy people but it DOES work ... in a crazy way. :)

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. I immediately thought Hiassen when I was reading the description. Glad you brought it up. That is one bright cover!!! I need sunglasses to look at it.

  7. Amy, I enjoyed your review of Electric Barracuda.
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