Saturday, December 6, 2014

Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

When Richard's cousin, Malley, fails to meet him on the beach one night, he knows something is wrong. He can't reach her by phone or text and when he checks her house, it is obvious that she is not there. When he finally gets a text from her, saying that she was grounded, he knows it is a lie.

Richard and Malley meet regularly at the beach to search for turtle nests and contact the state wildlife office so the nest can be marked and protected. The person Richard did meet at the beach when Malley didn't show, is Skink, former Florida governor, Clinton Tyree. Several years ago, while still governor, Skink was so disgusted by the greed and corruption that he snapped and disappeared. He now lives off off the grid, crusading against environmental crimes and sabotaging development projects that he considers harmful. He was on the beach that night to catch turtle egg poachers and he dispatches one in ambulance shortly after that. Skink is a character in several of Carl Hiaasen's adult novels.

Malley's parents are not concerned about her disappearance because they think she is in New Hampshire at the boarding school they wanted her to attend, to keep her out of trouble. Richard manages to piece together various clues to figure out that Malley has run away with a guy she met online, Talbo Chock. When he discovers that Talbo Chock is an alias and that the real Talbo Chock was killed in Afghanistan, he knows he has to let Malley's parents know and they contact the police.

Richard isn't really satisfied with the police efforts and teams up with Skink to find and rescue his cousin, using the cryptic clues that Malley gives him in her few phone calls. Their escapades include encounters with alligators and wild boars, an odoriferous gar fisherman and his brother, and the slightly deranged kidnapper.

Carl Hiaasen's novels are well known in adult and children's literature. This is his first young adult novel. Hiaasen's love of the environment and horror at the destruction of it by overdevelopment is central to the book, as it is in his others. He also manages to convey the dangers of online encounters, without going into gory detail or becoming preachy. The relationship between Richard, the very likable protagonist, and Skink is well developed. Malley is a spunky and confident, despite being the cause of all the problems. A really fun read as long as the reader is willing to suspend disbelief at times. 2014

R. Rauch

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