Big Trouble. Best 100 Mysteries of All Time

  Big TroubleDave Barry–Putnam–1999–in print

There’s a famous saying “dying is easy, comedy is hard,” and it couldn’t be more true in the case of humor author, Dave Barry and his first crime novel. So many seem to look down upon the satirical  and or downright funny mystery, as if the fact the it’s not all gloom and doom every sentence, makes it less valuable. less respected. In reality, it’s extremely hard to walk the humor line in crime, not over indulge with jokes and slapstick, but not be so restrained as to create humor dry as the desert. If anyone could manage the balance while standing on his head, Floridian newspaper columnist Dave Barry  could and did.

Barry, a Pulitzer Prize winner and best selling non fiction author creates a wild world in Coconut Grove, Florida. Many characters and situations cross and recross throughout the book, going from one absurd situation to another–here’s a couple of plot points ‘ A struggling adman named Eliot Arnold drives home from a meeting with the Client From Hell. His teenage son, Matt, fills a Squirtmaster 9000 for his turn at a high school game called Killer. Matt’s intended victim, Jenny Herk, sits down in front of the TV with her mom for what she hopes will be a peaceful evening for once. Jenny’s alcoholic and secretly embezzling stepfather, Arthur, emerges from the maid’s room, angry at being rebuffed. Henry and Leonard, two hit men from New Jersey, pull up to the Herks’ house for a real game of Killer, Arthur’s embezzlement apparently not having been quite so secret to his employers after all. And a homeless man named Puggy settles down for the night in a treehouse just inside the Herks’ yard.”

And honestly, that’s just the tip of the wackiness.

The film has some terrorist plot points, and unfortunately almost predicts the September 11th attack. I say almost, because the situations are much different and obviously told with tongue in cheek. But it cut to close to home for the film adaptation of the book to be released for a couple of years, and by that time the interest in the story line was soured by the real horrific events. Which, is quite a shame, because we can all learn some valuable lessons from humor, and in particular, Mr. Barry’s viewpoint.

Here’s a couple of pro’s opinion on Big Trouble:

“The funniest book I’ve read in fifty years.”–Elmore Leonard

“Despite wealth, fame and a tendency to undermedicate himself, Dave Barry remains one of the funniest writers alive. Big Trouble is outrageously warped, cheerfully depraved–and harrowingly close to true life in Florida. This book will do for our tourism industry what Dennis Rodman did for bridal wear.”–Carl Hiaasen

I’d go into more convoluted plot points, but why? When the best way to discover them is to pick up a copy and start reading. I guarantee, unless the edges of your mouth are sewed tightly down, you will smile, chuckle, roar with laughter, and learn a little something along the way.


Don’t forget to check out the Best 100 Mysteries of All Time List!