Fly on the Wall, by Mike Hirsh. Antenna Books. 298 pages. $14.99. Kindle ebook $5.99.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, human nature rears its ugly head. The vulnerable citizens of Punta Gorda, on Florida’s southwest coast, work their way through the chaos and destruction of the storm only to be preyed upon by their fellow man. There is a murder to solve, insurance fraud to uncover, and a sense of community to restore.
As they look back on it, wise-cracking Paul “Fly” Moscone, retired North Jersey computer salesman and now volunteer deputy in the county sheriff’s office, and his friend Bill “Jinx” Shiffman, a former journalist from L.A., banter and bicker through a beautiful day on Fly’s yacht with new friends who form a captive audience.
The telling of the tale is colored by wit and humor as Mike Hirsh, through his keen sense of place, suspenseful dual narration, and riotous characterizations, gets it done.
Though Fly and Jinx are good friends and almost inseparable, their relationship depends on trading insults nonstop. Much of the verbal humor in this novel depends on this “ballbusting” competition. As the take turns driving Fly’s boat and telling their story of the hurricane, they delight in challenging one another’s manhood. Readers will discover the deep respect that lies under the spirited digs and jibes.
Fly is the central figure. He is the one who comes across two potential crimes in the aftermath of Charley. Responding to a complaint that blood is leaking through a condo-dweller’s ceiling, he climbs up to the penthouse above and finds that the owner had bled out after being wounded by a shard of glass. Was this fatal injury from the storm? Fly see signs of foul play and thinks murder is a possibility.
A bit later on, Fly discovers that something else is fishy in that luxury condo: a very valuable Picasso drawing that should be there is missing. He knows where it is and rather easily discovers the culprit, but the outcome of his investigation is still quite surprising and reveals unexpected aspects of Fly’s character.
Meanwhile, insurance fraud is rampant. Fly, representing the sheriff’s office, accompanies a shrewd investigator on a few cases. He learns a lot from this man, Vin, and the reader learns a lot about the way the insurance industry handles suspect disaster claims. Fly is enraged at how people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens can have no qualms about attempting to rip off an insurance company. It’s amazing how they will lie and lie, even as all the evidence exposes their deceit. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 19, 2012 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 20 Naples, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte and SpaceCoast editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mike Hirsh