Humor, mystery work well

Oline H. Cogdill / Sun Sentinel (Florida) /

Published Feb 10, 2013 at 04:00AM

“The Riptide Ultra-Glide” by Tim Dorsey (Morrow, $25.99)

While a mystery’s twists and turns will keep readers turning the pages until the wee hours of the night, the characters are what make readers return, novel after novel.

A well-devised plot is a thing of beauty; but a thoughtfully constructed character who changes and grows in each book and especially during a long-running series is a work of art.

Tim Dorsey’s novels will never be mistaken for works of art. He has taken what is essentially a gimmick — a serial killer so enamored with Florida that he attacks those who don’t share his passion, or are just rude — and lathered it with broad, slapstick humor and made it work. Series “hero” Serge A. Storms never changes, never grows, but has amassed a solid following that will, no doubt, continue with “The Riptide Ultra-Glide,” the 16th in the Tampa author’s series.

“The Riptide Ultra-Glide” is, like Dorsey’s previous Serge novels, simply fun. No social issues, no in-depth characters, no scintillating dialogue, yet Dorsey hooks the reader with his unabashed enthusiasm and devotion to all things Florida. Here, Serge wants to have his own reality show but on his way to fame has to deal with bullies, those who extort the elderly, pain clinics and Wisconsin residents Patrick and Barbara McDougall who pick the wrong hotel. There’s also a war erupting between the Kentucky mafia and Mexican drug lords.

And amid all those laughs, readers also will learn something about the Sunshine State — though it’s doubtful that Dorsey ever would equate his Serge novels with an education, unless it was a lesson in humor.