A novel full of laughs carries a theme that’s no joke

Fly Unzipped, by Mike Hirsh. Vigstein Books. 252 pages. Paperback $12.99, Kindle e-book $4.99.

The boys are back. Paul “Fly” Moscone and Bill “Mr. Jinx” Shiffman, two bantering buddies leading the life of retirement in Punta Gorda, Florida, team up in another adventure at once hilarious and dead serious. One would think Mr. Hirsh would have trouble living up to the mixture of fun, local color, and serious issues that he mastered in “Fly on the Wall” (2012), which featured the insurance scandal aftermath of Hurricane Charley, but he has managed. FlyUnzipped300dpicover

He is up to the challenge.

Jinx, “a recovering journalist,” spices his retirement with freelance features in a local paper suspiciously named “Florida Weekly.” Fly, who once sold mainframe computers, is fulfilling his dream of being a law enforcement officer by having a volunteer “reserve” deputy sheriff position. It’s Chicago and New Jersey, Italian and Jew, in a wonderful dance of being “decidedly ethnic in a land of milk and white bread.”

Strange behavior at a massage parlor finds Fly brushing the hand of a young masseuse away from his private parts (thus the title). After telling his wife about the incident, and being surprised by her encouragement to try to do something about the problem, he gets himself assigned to go undercover in order to collect evidence on sex traffickers. He joins a special Southwest Florida task force headquartered in Fort Myers.

Mr. Hirsh provides a detailed portrait of the insidiousness and enormity of this kind of criminal enterprise, as well as the vulnerability of its victims. Part of the information that reaches the reader comes from Fly’s discussion with Marisol Sotolongo, a tough and beautiful mental health counselor with valuable experience in treating these young victims of sexual trafficking.

Hirsh

Hirsh

Fly’s undercover stint is successful, but more evidence is needed to catch the pimps who are taking advantage of these young girls. So Fly gets to take part in a stakeout.

Along the way, he runs into moral issues connected with the fate of these abused women – and their possible children. A session with his priest helps Fly sort matters out and deeps the reader’s understanding about what’s at stake.

Especially riveting is the scene in which Fly gets to witness Marisol’s interview with the girl caught (actually, rescued) during his undercover effort. Watching and hearing Marisol conduct the interview, and listening to law enforcement professionals comment on the process, reveals the delicacy and skill needed to illicit anything useful for a future arrest and prosecution. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 22, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 23 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Fly Unzipped

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