Tim Dorsey,
Triggerfish Twist
(William Morrow, 2002)

The Tampa, Fla., suburbs may never be the same.

Mistakenly believing Tampa to be the third best city in the United States for raising a family (there was a typo), Jim Davenport moves his family to a lovely old home on Triggerfish Lane. But beyond the lofty facade of the Davenport's new residence lies the seedy underbelly of crime and murder, car salesmen and consultants, rental properties and urban renewal. It all comes together in Tim Dorsey's delightful Triggerfish Twist.

The story comes complete with a laundry list of main characters, a large and unwieldy cast that, in many writers' hands, would collapse under its own weight. But Dorsey juggles them neatly, like an expert clown, and the tangled plotlines come together like, well, a game of Twister on the 4th of July without pants. (Read the book, you'll understand.)

Davenport is your average guy, a conscientious business consultant and family man. His wife, Martha, is a bit high-strung, it's true, but they and their children settle down on Triggerfish with high hopes for the future. Little do they know that Lance Boyle, who owns many of the properties on their street, is vying to buy up the rest so he can raze the houses and make a tidy sum on townhouses. To further that goal, he fills his rentals with the worst lowlifes he can find -- hoping to force a sharp decline in neighborhood values and encourage the few remaining homeowners, like the Davenports, to sell and move away.

Among those renting on Triggerfish are a loose collective of college students, who do what stereotypical party-hearty college students are wont to do, and a trio of criminals on the lam: Serge, Coleman and Sharon. Serge, a genius-level eccentric with a yen for history, is probably Dorsey's greatest coup in characterization; his adventures could easily fill a whole series of novels. There's also H. Ambrose Tarrington III, allegedly worth millions; Gladys, the neighborhood gossip; Jack Terrier, a lawn fetishist and obsessive Little League coach; Mr. Oppenheimer, who may or may not be building an experimental aircraft in his garage....

Elsewhere in Tampa, we meet John Milton, diligent employee; the E-Team, a quartet of feisty old birds; Bert and Ernie, who may be the current incarnation of Christ and the AntiChrist, or who may just be a couple of deluded homeless guys; and special agent Mahoney, the cop. And then there are the McGraw brothers, who are coming to town to avenge one of their own, who was awkwardly killed in a fouled-up car theft and airbag disaster.

There's more, but it'd be easier if you just read the book. Dorsey, an author of some note, is my latest discovery and a wonderful addition to my must-read list. The spiritual cousin of fellow Florida writer Carl Hiaasen, Dorsey is hilarious and inventive. This is the perfect time to visit his little corner of Florida.

by Tom Knapp
29 July 2006

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