February 8, 2013

Review: Insane City

Insane City By Dave Barry
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Review copy

INSANE CITY lives up to its title.  Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry  pens a comic tale involving a professional Tweeter, Haitian illegal immigrants, an orangutan, an Escalade, pot brownies, a very large wedding, and more.  And it all starts when Seth and his groomsmen arrive in Miami and fail to find their hotel, decide to get drunk, and lose their luggage - including the ring.

What really makes INSANE CITY hold together is that Seth is a genuinely decent guy.  He has no ambition, he's not that talented, but he's loyal and compassionate.  As the proceedings spin more and more out of control, I wanted him to somehow make it work and end up happy, because a guy who is willing to go to insane lengths to both help a group of strangers who he can't even talk to and ensure his wedding goes according to his fiancée's wishes is a guy who deserves a good ending.  At the point where he accidentally robs a convenience story with what he thinks is a gorilla, I was insanely curious to see how Barry could plot a way out of the whole mess for Seth.

This is an extremely busy novel.  There's a massive cast full of people who are all doing their own thing and have basically no clue about what everyone else is doing.  But everyone's actions are interconnected.  Despite the sprawl, I had very little trouble following what was happening or who was who.  The characters are mostly outsized stereotypes, but it's easy to the differentiate the personalities.  The events proceed in - I hesitate to call it logical - an order, so that no matter how implausible the story gets, there's still a sense of cause-and-effect.

I don't know what it is about Florida that lends itself so well to dark comedy.  I've only been to Florida once and that was to go to Disney World, where order is carefully maintained.  But I believe in the twisted funhouse state found in INSANE CITY, as well as works by Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey.  There's something irresistible about madcap Florida satire/adventure novels.

I loved INSANE CITY.  It's a great balance of utterly bonkers plot and genuine emotional core.  I highly recommend it to fans of Barry, Elmore Leonard, Christopher Moore, and the other two aforementioned authors.  It's less gruesome than most novels by those other authors, for those wondering.  INSANE CITY is a great pick for anyone who needs a laugh.


  1. Has me thinking of The Hangover, though it sounds less... drunk... than that. I like that the title and story completely fits the other, it could get completely crazy and you'd have to accept it.

    1. I've heard it compared to The Hangover! But I liked it better than The Hungover, which was funny but often mean-spirited.

  2. I liked Dave Barry's humor columns so I'd be interested in giving it a go, especially since you loved it. :-) Besides, I can't resist quirky characters.

  3. Nice review. I don't think I've read anything by these authors, but I like a crazy story every now and then!

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