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Shark Skin Suite


Shark Skin Suite

- Click here to read Roz Shea's review.

Review #1 by Joe Hartlaub

I can’t believe that SHARK SKIN SUITE is Tim Dorsey’s 18th novel, yet I can’t remember a time when Serge Storms, his iconic serial killer, wasn’t around. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but you’ll take my point, especially if you’ve been a faithful reader of the chronicles of Serge and his perpetually ozoned and useless companion Coleman over the last couple of decades. Times have changed, but Serge and Coleman have not.

Therein lies the key to the appeal of Dorsey’s novels. All of these books are, up to a point, formalistic. You know what you’re getting before you even crack the binding. Serge is an innovative serial killer and expert in the arcane knowledge of Florida’s history and culture. Dorsey sets his character into current events and lets everything rip. The result is that the reader knows exactly what to expect, yet has no idea what will happen next. That’s tough to do and get away with, book after book, but Dorsey does it better than anyone.

"...a rollicking, wonderful and yet bloody romp that sets Serge loose between Tampa and Miami and points south, joining forces with old friends and making new enemies."

SHARK SKIN SUITE is no exception to the above; it is a rollicking, wonderful and yet bloody romp that sets Serge loose between Tampa and Miami and points south, joining forces with old friends and making new enemies. The old friend in this case is an idealistic attorney named Brook Campanella, who is making a name for herself by taking on unscrupulous mortgage companies with loose business practices that are attempting to bilk people out of their homes. Brook’s enemies become Serge’s enemies in short order, particularly when Brook becomes a target in a high-profile trial. Serge does not lack in the ability to make targets of his own, particularly early on in SHARK SKIN SUITE, when he takes on a particularly inventive and cruel extortionist and subjects the fiend to a bit of Serge-style justice.

There is no denying that part of the appeal of these books is their demonstration of Serge’s ability to create out of whole cloth (as well as some homemade explosives) new and innovative ways of dispatching the deserving. Serge displays a penchant for utilizing the Florida fauna in this latest title with predictable yet still entertaining results. I don’t believe that Serge has ever repeated himself with respect to his method of killing the users, grifters and just plain discourteous who prey upon the innocent. While it makes one disinclined to take a car ride alone with his creator anytime soon, it does make for an extremely entertaining read.

Then there is the Florida trivia. SHARK SKIN SUITE focuses on films that feature legal themes set in Florida (you saw that one coming, didn’t you?), including Body Heat and Cool Hand Luke, among others. This is great and entertaining fun, from beginning to end, and adds a bit to the personal back stories of both Serge and Coleman. What more could you ask for?

You can be sober as a judge or stoned as a musician when you read SHARK SKIN SUITE and still enjoy it either way. The title of the piece will not be lost upon those who are a part of or have had dealings with the legal profession. Dorsey is not stopping. And I hope he never does.



Review #2 by Roz Shea

Serge Storms and his permanently high sidekick, Coleman, return in Tim Dorsey’s 18th novel. I’ve read every single Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry and Randy Wayne White book, even a brief but funny foray into Janet Evanovich’s Key West mysteries, plus several others too numerous to mention. Somehow, though, I completely missed Tim Dorsey! With the morals of maggots, this team has a talent for offing people who really deserve it. And get away with it. Serge is an absolute genius at making individuals disappear in ways that would turn the Marquis de Sade green with envy. 

Dorsey is one of several former South Florida newspaper men and women who live in what is perhaps Planet Earth’s richest tidal pool for kinky, Gonzo-style fiction material. They have at their fingertips the fodder for the most oddball, violent, corrupt, drug-induced, whacked-out crime in America. You get the feeling when you pick up this peculiar genre --- it truly is a genre unto itself --- that all they had to do was thumb through the morgue (newspaper --- not that cooler at the coroner's office) and pick at random a story that, if not entirely true, could have been. Fact checking news stories is a lost art, and newspapers are fast becoming extinct. It’s almost as if aliens have landed. What other location boasts the rich composite of tourists in clownish outfits, sleazy bars, alligators, escaped pet pythons, heat-seeking iguanas (duct tape your pet doors, homeowners), squadrons of moth-sized mosquitoes, and giant African snails?

"Serge is an absolute genius at making individuals disappear in ways that would turn the Marquis de Sade green with envy. "

IN SHARK SKIN SUITE, tens of thousands of hapless homeowners are financially underwater in the scam involving greedy banks Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that sent a destroyer missile through Wall Street a few years back. A small-time lawyer trying to help a poor widow reclaim her repossessed home discovers some paperwork that might hang a huge financial institution out to dry, but he doesn’t have the means to take this on himself. One of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in Florida, smelling a tasty seven-figure settlement, takes over the case from this two-bit attorney who, not surprisingly, knows Serge, with his sudden realization that he has a flare for the law. He has no degree --- just a shady paralegal degree, which is no problem because he's grown adept at counterfeiting or knows the guys who can get it done. He now has charted a potentially lucrative path to becoming what is known in the law as a "fixer."  

New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Kansas City, LA and just about any city in Texas have their own style of crime, but there’s a certain sameness to it. Drive-by shootings, convenience store holdups, kidnappings…yada, yada, yada. But maybe it’s the combination of heat and humidity, uncharted roads through the swamps, and illegal substances that course through the veins of South Florida criminals that make them special. They are scary, avaricious, slightly insane and hilarious, all at once.    

Dorsey puts his own unique spin on the tale, with interesting tidbits on famous movies about Florida, such as Cool Hand Luke and other historical events that have all been bootlegged by Hollywood as he sets Serge off on an OCD-induced hunt for the actual places where these events occurred. Perhaps the reason Hollywood shot the movies in Burbank is because it isn’t populated by exotic and dangerous flora and fauna that inhabit that oddly phallic-shaped peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean. The movie capital of the world has its share of Serge Storms, but they are on psychiatrists’ couches and take tranquilizers, or are filthy rich and hire press agents.   

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub and Roz Shea on January 30, 2015

Shark Skin Suite
by Tim Dorsey

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062240021
  • ISBN-13: 9780062240026