The Extravaganza of the Seas is a five-thousand-ton cash cow, a top-heavy tub whose sole function is to carry gamblers three miles from the Florida coast, take their money, then bring them back so they can find more money. In the middle of a tropical storm one night, these characters are among the passengers it carries: Fay Benton, a single mom and cocktail waitress desperate for something to go right for once; Johnny and the Contusions, a ship's band with so little talent they are . . . well, the ship's band; Arnold and Phil, two refugees from the Beaux Arts Senior Center; Lou Tarant, a wide, bald man who has killed nine people, though none recently; and an assortment of uglies whose job it is to facilitate the ship's true business, which is money-laundering or drug-smuggling or . . . something.
Humorist Barry (Big Trouble) brings together a motley group of South Florida eccentrics on an ill-fated casino boat voyage in his second full-length comic mystery novel. A tropical storm is bearing down on the Florida coast, but the Extravaganza of the Seas, a luxury gambling ship, sets sail on its nightly excursion in spite of the weather. Aboard are Fay Benton, an attractive cocktail waitress trying to make ends meet for her kid; a collection of pot-smoking would-be rockers (at least one of whom lives with his mother) who make up the ship's band, Johnny and the Contusions; a pair of wise-cracking octogenarians who've escaped an extended-care facility; and some Mafia-connected gangsters who use the ship's nightly voyages to smuggle drugs onto the mainland. Bobby Kemp, the ship's titular owner, insists that the Extravaganza go out in the storm because he's chosen this night to hijack the drug deal. In the background, a local television station plays a role straight from Keystone Kopsas its reporters frantically cover the approaching storm with consistently fatal results. Barry once again showcases his gently satiric style, with barbs aimed at overbearing mothers, corrupt officials, inept authorities and, of course, the American crime novel itself, which he sends up with absurd plotting, astronomical body count and plenty of gratuitous nudity and (PG-rated) sex. Belying self-deprecating disclaimers about his talent for fiction, Barry demonstrates that he can draw some captivating characters and keep a reader's attention in spite of or perhaps because of slapstick antics and a fascination with scatology.
Vastly improved sequel!
Great spiritual sequel to "Big Trouble." Bits like an action movie, with some romantic elements and jokes scattered fittingly all over ("Ship of Puke" FTW). In short, a great plot that could be a movie without many changes neccesary. (Why hasn't it become a movie, is what I'm wondering.)