Condemned to the obituary desk after vocally criticizing the newspaper’s new owner for his more-ads-less-news-thus-more-profit policy, investigative reporter Jack Tagger’s febrile mind is at loose ends. Consequently he’s been consumed with discovering the circumstances of his father’s death and has become more than morbidly preoccupied with the dates of celebrity deaths.
Hence the news of Jimmy Stoma’s death, yesteryear rock star of the (in)famous Jimmy and the Slut Puppies group, which hardly creates a news ripple anywhere, takes paramount importance for Tagger. His dusty journalistic instincts are aroused when casual inquiry into Stoma’s scuba-diving accident elicits a duplicitous response from his not-so grieving pop-starlet widow.
Before long, Tagger is up to his eyeballs investigating what looks like a cleverly concealed murder with goons, a fire-breathing editor and a desperate newspaper owner all out for his guts for various reasons. But with a front-page byline in his view, nothing can stop Tagger, not even putting his own life in deadly peril.
Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case is a refreshing departure from his usual ‘Save the Everglades’-themed novels. But the humor characteristic of his writing is fully alive in this book as well, though it is tinged with morbidity thanks to the gloomy mindset of central character Jack Tagger. The politics of the back-stabbing and fiercely competitive world of music is the focal point of this story, and while Stoma’s crude lyrics may not be to everyone’s taste, they are certainly representative of the popular music world today. The zany plot and the oddball characters populating it contribute a lot of fun and general mayhem and, surprisingly, even a bit of mystery to the story. The result is a pleasant and entertaining read, if not a memorable one.