Laurence Shames has attracted enthusiastic fans with his Key West novels, which include Florida Straits, Mangrove Squeeze, Scavenger Reef, and Sunburn. Each of these books is a hilarious mixture of zany crimes and offbeat characters. Welcome to Paradise is his best yet.
When Al Marracotta, Mafia boss, takes a week’s vacation in Key West, he looks forward to days of sun, sex, and seafood. Alan Tuschman, New Jersey furniture salesman, is a reluctant tourist. He has won a week in Key West for his sales record. But they have something in common: vanity license plates that read BIG AL. So when two goons are sent to ruin Big Al’s vacation, it’s not long before they target the wrong guy. Between the frustrated henchmen and the baffled Als, each chapter grows loonier than the last. And with the addition of a romantic wild card, the winsome Katy Sansone, the tough guys’ schemes are tempered by more tender scenes. Narrator Ron McLarty’s fine performance keeps the action moving at a brisk clip.
©1999 Laurence Shames (P)1999 Recorded Books, LLC
Laurence Shames can write like nobody's business, and Ron McLarty can narrate. They are a fine pair in this book, which features a Key West setting and a confusion between two Big Als. One is a mobster, a fish market boss in New York. The other is a meek but successful furniture salesman in New Jersey. Two colorful mob hit men are hired to take out one of them. They try to take out the wrong Al, and they try to do it with the theme "death by seafood." The love interest, a young woman named Katy, plays a central role in the plot. McLarty voices all the characters with skill and wit. He is very experienced at this. Shames is so witty that you want to hear it again so you can get all the jokes. He gives you a sense of place that convinces me that he lives there and loves it. All the locations sound real. Duvall Street sounds like a perfect miniature Las Vegas, with tourists and t-shirt shops and bars. My only complaint with this book is the absence of Bert the Shirt. I know that Shames can't use the same character in all these books, but I sure wish he could. I could listen to the adventures of Bert and his ancient chihuahua Don Giovanni for a very long time.
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