BooksForKidsBlog

Monday, February 02, 2009

Double Flush : Scat by Carl Hiaasen

"Hold it here," Jimmy Bayliss barked at the pilot. "Now!"

"Ten-four."

"Why are you laughin'?"

"Because it's funny," the pilot said.

"Not to me, it ain't. Not to Mr. McBride, either, the man who's payin' for this whirlybird!"

"Okay, fine. It's not funny"

All the pink flags--once laid out so precisely with the eye of a surveyor, marking the future path of the illegal pipeline from Section 22 to Section 21--had been yanked from their holes, uprooted by an unknown hand....

Rearranged in such an obvious way that anyone flying low enough in a helicopter couldn't help but see the double-edged insult.

"S-C-A-T," the flags sneered in fluttering capital letters, as cheery as confetti.
SCAT.

Mrs. Starch is a holy terror of a biology teacher, giving Nick Waters and his friend Marta Gonzalez dry-heaving horrors every time she looks to call on them in class. But when she badgers bad-boy Duane Scrod, Jr., (a.k.a. "Smoke" for his two arrests for arson), he bites off and swallows the sharpened end of her accusatory pencil and, snatching up his camo book bag, stomps out of class.

On a field trip the next day to Black Vine Swamp, Duane is predictably among the absent, and when a sudden wildfire drives the kids out of the swamp, Mrs. Starch charges back into the smoke to rescue a student's inhaler and fails to return. When an answering machine in her voice and signed note to the headmaster indicate that Mrs. Starch has been called away on urgent family business, Nick and Marta are suspicious, especially since Duane's past makes him the prime suspect for setting the fire and possibly kidnapping his teacher for revenge.

But as the two get deeper and deeper into the mystery, things get more complicated. Snooping around Starch's house in the woods, Nick and Marta meet up with Twilly, an eco-vagrant who is seen driving Smoke around town in Mrs. Starch's Prius. Then, when Duane's camo backpack is found near the fire scene, with a butane lighter inside, he becomes a wanted fugitive and flees to the swamp. Having seen Duane at school with the bag after the fire, Nick and Marta are certain he is being framed by someone else.

And indeed Duane is--a serendipitous fall-guy for a pair of illegal oil drillers who scheme to make millions secretly drilling on public land adjacent to their own. Looking for Duane in the swamp leads Nick and Marta to discover Mrs. Starch's camp in a remote section, where she is hand-feeding a Florida panther kitten and hoping to unite the baby and its mother and help preserve this endangered species. Nick, Marta, Mrs. Starch, and Twilly become unlikely allies with Duane, a swamp tracker of extraordinary skill who hopes to follow the mother cat's scat to her hideout and reunite the big cat with her baby. In the process, of course, the intrepid kids, always a step ahead of the adult lawmen, manage to out the illegal con men who themselves set the fire as cover for their illicit plan.

Karl Hiaasen's brand-new eco-thriller, Scat, (Knopf, 2009) is a worthy sequel to his Newbery Honor-winning Hoot and best-selling Flush. Hiaasen takes his time developing his usual quirky cast of Florida characters (there's even a hint of the hand of "Skink," favorite of readers of Hiaasen's adult eco-mysteries) in typical plot-twisting style, as he leisurely weaves his story lines together until they meet in a satisfying conclusion. His unlikely heroes are tenacious, his villains are both slimy and laughable in their shortsighted greed for gain, and his quick cuts between plot threads are sure to keep middle readers engaged. It's an easy-going page turner of a thriller which is nonetheless grounded in Hiaasen's respect for Florida's natural setting and wildlife, and like its predecessors, the title itself, with its delightful double entendre, tells the whole story. For 'tweeners and young adult readers, this book reinforces the solid reputation of his earlier successes. Hiaasen rocks!

For my review of Hiassen's previous books for young readers, see my post of February 19, 2007, here.

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4 Comments:

  • Very nice Summary! I read the book too and I loved it..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 AM  

  • This book is amazing, I want to read it again

    By Blogger Emily Fang, at 10:33 PM  

  • I always say to my little son before he go to bed this prhase """"All the pink flags--once laid out so precisely with the eye of a surveyor, marking the future path of the illegal pipeline"""

    By Anonymous Buy Viagra, at 1:46 PM  

  • Another great review of a great book, my son absolutely love it.

    By Anonymous safemeds, at 2:38 PM  

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