Tricky Business Review
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Unabridged Book on CD
Read by Dick Hill
7 CDs (approximately 7 hours)

Dave Barry has obviously been reading other South Florida novels—because his work tends to come off as a mix between his own humor columns and the tongue-in-cheek, madcap crime novels of fellow Floridian Carl Hiaasen. In Big Trouble, Dave’s first novel, he pulled it off almost flawlessly. In Tricky Business, however, it doesn’t work quite as well.

The story revolves around the casino cruise ship, the Extravaganza of the Sea. Despite the fact that a tropical storm is headed straight for South Florida, Bobby Kemp, the ship’s owner, has decided that there’s no way he’s keeping the Extravaganza from leaving the docks. Kemp is secretly working on a plan to intercept the Mob-run drug deal that’s going to happen mid-cruise—to rid himself of the Mob’s control once and for all—and he’s not going to postpone it. So the ship sets sail—much to the dismay of the ship’s employees, including single mom and cocktail waitress Fay Benton and the ship’s perpetually-stoned band, Johnny and the Contusions—with a huge troupe of money-hungry gamblers (including a couple of escapees from a local retirement home) on board.

Fans of Dave Barry’s humor first need to understand one thing: this isn’t exactly the same Dave Barry whom you know and love. This is a Dave Barry who, while still being sarcastic and sophomoric, uses bad words and writes about gangsters and other “unsavory characters.” And that’s just fine, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. As I said earlier, it works well in Big Trouble. Tricky Business, however, takes all the unsavoriness to the next level, filling the story with sex and flatulence and vomit and gruesome death. And it’s supposed to be kinda funny—but the laughs just don’t come as frequently as they did before.

I’m guessing that the audio format is somewhat to blame when it comes to the hard-to-follow plot. Unless you’re going to give this story your full and undivided attention (which means not paying attention to maps/exits/other vehicles, if you happen to be traveling) and listen to it almost entirely in one sitting, you’ll have a hard time keeping up with all the plot lines while sorting through the characters. It’s just a little too tricky for a casual listen. So if you decide to overlook the general unsavoriness and give this one a shot, read it the traditional way—or you may find yourself seriously lost (either plot-wise or road-trip-wise).

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