The Stingray Shuffle

It won't spoil any surprises to tell you that the prologue to The Stingray Shuffle is actually the epilogue. That is, in terms of the action of the book, it takes place after the final chapter and won't make much sense until you've finished the book. It's another one of those bits of Tim Dorsey trivia that he did the same thing in his last book, Triggerfish Twist. All of Dorsey's satiric crime novels are interrelated somehow, with continuing plot lines, characters, and enough oblique cross-references and inside jokes to keep trivia buffs and schizophrenics busy for decades, deciphering them all. In his fifth book, The Stingray Shuffle, Dorsey returns to a briefcase filled with $5-million that was buried during a hurricane at the end of his second novel, Hammerhead Ranch Motel. Serge Storms, Dorsey's lovable homicidal maniac, is back as well, spewing Florida facts your history teacher never told you and wreaking vengeance on killers, thieves and vandals. In fact, one thing that makes Serge so appealing is his obsessive love of Florida and its more offbeat history, trivia and memorabilia. The author is a Florida-phile, and the historical facts in the book are accurate and highly entertaining. And, although Serge is a killer, his crimes are tremendously creative (like turning his victims into the human equivalent of beef jerky) and satisfying in a Robin Hood sort of way: He usually kills really bad guys, thereby saving the good guys whom the bad guys were going to kill. Or he executes the kind of assholes we've all idly fantasized about murdering in ways peculiarly appropriate to their offenses.

Dorsey has developed Serge's character to the point that he has dimension now and readers care what happens to him. The author's other characters remain mostly cartoons that work well enough for getting his satire across. But this fan would like to see fewer wild and crazy side-characters and more depth to the remaining ones. —Susan Edwards

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