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The Pope of Palm Beach

Review

The Pope of Palm Beach

I’m not sure that THE POPE OF PALM BEACH is Tim Dorsey’s best book, but it’s certainly my new favorite in the Serge A. Storms canon. If you’re looking to shake off the winter doldrums with a solid, laugh-a-page read with some innovative mayhem applied to deserving parties, this is the novel you want and need.

THE POPE OF PALM BEACH may be the 21st installment, but don’t hesitate to jump right in. Dorsey makes it quite easy for newcomers to make the acquaintance of Florida’s #1 fan, archivist and vigilante serial killer. With his sidekick, Coleman --- who is totally baked and half-baked at the same time --- he traverses the Sunshine State with purpose and at full speed. In this latest adventure, Serge is returning to his hometown of Riviera Beach, and he and Coleman are on a literary tour of the area, visiting various locations mentioned in Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford novels.

"THE POPE OF PALM BEACH isn’t just laughs and mayhem, although it still would be worth reading if that was the case. Dorsey demonstrates that he can write serious crime and caper fiction without batting an eye."

Serge is also on the hunt for Kenny Reese, his favorite author, who wrote three brilliant works of detective fiction before inexplicably disappearing. However, there are other parties hunting for Reese, and it is inevitable that their paths will cross. The narrative, for a good two-thirds of the book, alternates between Serge’s present and the 1960s through the 1990s. It is in the sections dealing with the past that we learn a bit about Storm’s (and Coleman’s) childhood, as well as the friendship between a surfer god named Darby Pope and a disaffected young man who Pope mentors. That is not all that we learn, of course.

The novel is generously sprinkled with information peculiar to Florida, such as the mean high tide law, the habits of sea turtles, and smuggling, as well as more general topics like writing, book tours, friendship, loyalty, and hazardous waste collection and its disposal. Serge also mentions, ever so briefly, how, during a stint in Catholic grade school, he and his classmates played tackle football on the playground, resulting in their school uniforms being shredded repeatedly. That was all it took to make this my favorite Serge book; I thought that happened only at my school.

THE POPE OF PALM BEACH isn’t just laughs and mayhem, although it still would be worth reading if that was the case. Dorsey demonstrates that he can write serious crime and caper fiction without batting an eye. There is even a bit of a novel within a novel that may make you yearn to see a completed version of it. Actually, THE POPE OF PALM BEACH may be the completed version. With Dorsey, you never know. What you should know is that this is a book you should read by an author whose work you should be reading religiously.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 2, 2018

The Pope of Palm Beach
by Tim Dorsey

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062429256
  • ISBN-13: 9780062429254