Reading: Electric Barracuda, by Tim Dorsey

electric barracudaWhat it’s about:

Serge Storms, that lovable one-man thermonuclear vigilante and one-stop all-things-Florida trivia shop, has been leaving corpses strewn across the Sunshine State for more than a decade. The authorities – especially one tenacious FBI agent – have begun to take notice of the mounting body count, and a police task force is being organized. Could Serge’s luck have finally run out?

Not when he has brains, vision, a sidekick like Coleman (okay, maybe not Coleman), a penchant for ingenious violence, and an Internet travel-advice site conveniently directing disciples on the best way to explore the Sunshine State – as a fugitive, of course! What could be any better than a getaway tour through Serge’s favorite Florida bayous, back roads and beyond?

While the cops chase Storms’ troopers through his favorite locales in a manic gumball rally in the “tradition of the best American chase movie,” the man himself must attend to a pressing personal matter. His grandfather’s old Miami Beach gang is suddenly broke, their life savings vaporized. Though they have a good idea who’s behind it, they can’t do anything about it. But a certain man with a Secret Master Plan can. Especially when it involves a favorite Serge obsession: Al Capone’s little-known escapades in the Everglades!

Electric Barracuda is the 13th book in the Serge Storms series; it’s my first read of the series itself, and while I’ve not finished the book yet so can’t give it a full-blown review, it definitely gets off to a rollicking start.

Serge Storm is a very different kind of anti-hero: he’s got very funny dialogue, is keen on rather creative acts of vigilante justice, and happens to be a serial killer to boot.

The novel itself has a great slapstick feel to it, with parts that will make you laugh out loud. Then again, there are some gruesome parts, too – Serge, after all, a serial killer, and his trademark is coming up with extremely ingenious killing methods.

Part of the plot involves a travel website Serge is running, one that specializes in theme vacations; the first such vacation? The “tourist fugitive” – sign up to tour Florida as if you’re a fugitive on the lam. Why Florida?

“Florida’s the perfect camouflage,” said Serge. “Up in Middle America, even one of our low-profile whack jobs would stick out like Pamela Anderson bronco-riding a UFO. A minimum of fifty calls to the cops. But down here we’re so over-saturated with hard-core street freaks that everyone energetically ignores them. We don’t want to notice and report each strangeness flare-up, or we’d totally cease to be able to run errands.”

The characters populating Electric Barracuda are fascinating, and their interactions with each other create some very humorous moments. And the dialogue! At times, it feels like I’m reading a screenplay, one filled with a lot of funny lines. This is an early scene between Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents White and Lowe:

“Lowe, what on earth are you doing?

Lowe looked up from his desk. “Shaving my arms to decrease drag in case Serge tries to make a water escape.”

My verdict so far? If you enjoy a book with funny anti-heroes, zany acts of vigilante justice, and lots of madcap humor and equally madcap action, Electric Barracuda is definitely a book to check out (actually, I’ve never come across a book before that combines these three things!). On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for a crime thriller or a mystery, this probably isn’t the right book to suit your mood.

Update: Kathy brings up a good point, about coming into this series (as a reader) at this book, the 13th one, rather than an earlier one. I’m not sure if I’m really the ideal person to say how the book reads if you’re new to the series. Because this post was originally supposed to be an author interview post, I did a lot of research into both the author and the series before I started reading the book itself (I find this helps me craft much better interview questions), so I already knew a fair bit about the series characters even though I was new to the series.

A final note: on Tim Dorsey’s site, he recommends that you read the series in chronological order: “(Or, why dead people show up in later books.) Although the timeline of the books is non-chronological, they are meant to be read that way (in publication order).”

Note: This post was originally supposed to be part of my semi-regular “Writers on Their Writing Process” interview series, but due to some unfortunate timing issues, this wasn’t possible – my apologies. This post is part of the TLC blog tour for Electric Barracuda. I’m reading an ARC of the book, but all quotes from the book have been checked for consistency with the “Look Inside!” version from Amazon.com. Click here for more of the blog tour information, and to read what other bloggers are saying about Electric Barracuda.

6 thoughts on “Reading: Electric Barracuda, by Tim Dorsey

    • It’s quite well-written – it feels a lot like an action movie script to me – although I think if you’re coming into it fresh, you have to read it more as a funny novel rather than a crime-type of novel.

      I might also have had more of an “edge” as a reader because I did a lot of research on the series and the author before I even started reading the book, since this post was originally supposed to be an interview and I need that kind of background to prepare proper interview questions, so I knew a bit more background coming into the book than I would have if I picked up the book “fresh”.

      The author does suggest on his site that you read the books in order, simply because there are certain people who get killed off, so I think reading them out of order would give some of it away.

    • I don’t think I would have thought to pick up this book before, either. But you might want to start with the first in the series, Vasilly. I’m not sure my experience was really that of a true “new to the series” reader, since I already knew a fair bit about the characters to begin with!

  1. The whole non-chronological books-in-a-series thing can get to me, but if the author is saying they need to be read in publication order then I guess I’ll take his word for it! LOL

    I’m glad you are enjoying this rather eccentric book. Thanks for being on the tour.

  2. Belle, This does sound zany and madcap. Once in a while I like a really funny novel as a rest from all the deadly serious stuff I tend to get into. Maybe that’s why I like Sue Grafton so much; she writes a good story and it’s also funny with humerous characters. Best of both worlds.

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