Sick Puppy

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Sick Puppy (2000) is a novel by Carl Hiaasen.


Plot summary

Florida's corrupt governor, Dick Artemus, pursues schemes to line his pockets and those of his rich entrepreneur backers at the expense of the environment. His schemes have always foundered in the past, but he has high hopes of a plan involving Toad Island, virtually uninhabited except for innumerable tiny toads. A former drug smuggler-turned-developer, Robert Clapley, plans to bulldoze the island and turn it into Shearwater Island, with high rise condominiums, a golf course and a massive new bridge to the mainland. He hires Palmer Stoat, a lobbyist, to expedite the project.

By random happenstance, Stoat incurs the wrath of Twilly Spree, an eccentric millionaire, when he dumps rubbish out of his car window onto the highway. Spree obsessively pursues a path of retribution for littering, tracking Stoat back to his Fort Lauderdale residence and later breaking into the home where he and his wife Desirata live to find information about him.

Then Spree rents a truck full of garbage and dumps the whole smelly truckload on Desirata Stoat's BMW convertible, which is parked, with its top down, in the parking lot of a restaurant. Some time later Stoat finds his own car full of dung beetles (which he mistakes for cockroaches). Stoat does not connect these acts of vandalism to his littering, and does not change his ways, but declares that the world itself is sick.

There Spree is shocked to find that Stoat has a wall full of animal trophies, all from canned hunts in Florida. He removes their glass eyes and arranges them in a pentagram form on Stoat's desk; later Stoat's Labrador, Boodle, swallows some of the glass eyes, which makes him the "sick puppy" of the novel's title.Eventually, his Labrador is abducted.

When Desirata meets Spree to get the dog back, two unforeseen things happen: Spree learns all about the Shearwater Project, which he of course vehemently opposes; and he and Desirata fall in love with each other. She converts to Spree's cause and, as a condition for the return of the dog, persuades Stoat to have governor Artemus stop the Shearwater Project by vetoing the bridge which would be required to enable development.

Clapley faces angry questions from his backers following the veto of the project. Both he and Stoat come to the conclusion that it is necessary to get hold of the crazy extortionist, who has sent the ear and the paw of a dead black Labrador that he found on the highway to Stoat to make it absolutely clear how serious he is. Clapley assigns a contract killer that he has on retainer, Gash, to find and get rid of Spree.

Stoat, in an effort to avoid the Shearwater Project being tainted with violent death, seeks out and locates ex-governor Clinton Tyree, who vanished about 20 years ago after a short and unsuccessful (but honest) term of office and is said to be hiding out somewhere in the remaining wilderness of Florida. Artemus knows the only way to blackmail Clinton Tyree: Clinton's disturbed brother Doyle is still on the governor's payroll as the keeper of a lighthouse that has not been in use for years. Artemus advises Tyree that his brother will be tossed out on the street if he doesn't locate Spree.

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