Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure meets Carl Hiaasen on spring break, only the characters are even less mature responsible adults. Instead of a time travelling phone birth, out ‘heroes’ have an oil leaking box truck. The policophobic (fear of the police) James Lessor and his best friend ‘Skip’ Moore have formed the More Or Less Detective Agency. Notice I didn’t say run as these two bumbling slackers couldn’t run a pair of cheap panty hose getting them off of a beach bunny. Think of a Jimmy Buffet song about misadventure, and you will have no trouble imagining Skip and James.
Mary Trueblood, the great-granddaughter of Matthew Kriegel who is the fictional finance director for the Florida East Coast railway, which along with Kriegel, pretty much disappeared in the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Along with roughly a ton of gold bars.
Mary has offered the boys a half a percent of the value of the gold, plus expenses, if they find it. She is in possession of a cryptic letter, supposedly written by great=granddad, that hints at the location of a map to where he stashed the gold as the hurricane approached. What Mary doesn’t disclose is that she had previously hired to other shady detectives to find the gold, and they haven’t been heard from since.
On the approach to Islamorada, Fla., the pair are menaced by a Harley-Davidson rider, sporting a gold fender (the bike) and a black-out facemask (the rider) who splashes the side of their box truck with black paint. Armed with a thousand dollars in expense money on a prepaid ATM card, and an endless supply of oil for the truck, our erstwhile detectives check in to the Pelican Cove resort and go about the business of all Florida detectives. Drink beer and hitting on every female in sight. But when a dead body is found in their room shortly after they check in, the vacation is interrupted. James is arrested for questioning, but is uncooperative due to his policophobia. So the boys call in their secret weapon. Skips girl friend, Em who has everything they’ll need to crack the case in her purse, including a nail file, scuba equipment and a Porsche Carrera…and extra oil for the truck.
Along the way, the boys with Em in tow, and with the help of local real estate broker, Maria Sanko, confront a couple of shady doctors, suspected ghosts of the first detectives, guard dogs, the aforementioned phantom Harley rider, local cops, a nearly hundred year old survivor of the hurricane, and a spooky graveyard, setout to find the gold.
The novel is pure entertainment as the pair of unlikely protagonists, quoting movie lines along the way and never passing up a chance to down a Yeungling Beer or two bumble their way through a plot that is half loosely told history and half comedy. There are many plot holes that never get plugged, but who cares? Have another drink, and did you see the bikini on that waitress?
The novel is full of satire, but not the social/ecological commentary of Hiaasen. It is more along the lines of, “did they really get away with that?” kind of satire. The events that link the scenes together are pretty weak as far as logical progression and the structure suffers for this reason, the character building suffers the same weaknesses, and the plot is as full of as many holes as a beach after a sand castle contest, but it’s still a load of fun and giggles.
Don Bruns is an author of four previous “Stuff” novels and also writes a slightly more serious and hardboiled,”Caribbean” series featuring music writer Mick Sever. Don also spent years as a professional musician making a scant living and he’s worked as an advertising exec. Him and some friends also run a cozy, nostalgic used book store, Bookends Used and Rare Books. he splits his time between Ohio and Florida.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved
Article first published as Book Review: Too Much Stuff by Don Bruns on Blogcritics.