I saw a play last Sunday called “Skeleton Crew” (It was excellent!) and it in, the lead character Faye, a houseless autoworker facing a layoff, talked about heading to Florida because it’s too cold in Detroit to be a bum, but she could go to Florida and be a “beach bum.” I have often wondered if the “Florida Man” stories are a byproduct of it being the place people run to when life is too difficult. Whether that’s true or not, Florida Happens is a sort of tribute to “Florida Man” (and Woman) in the form of a generous anthology of mystery and thriller short stories.

By generous, rather than the usual dozen stories, there are twenty-one from new and familiar authors. They are also well-chosen. Being Florida, there’s more than the usual nod to elder criminals. After all, what does a mob enforcer do when they retire? Given that Florida elected Rick Scott who oversaw the biggest Medicare fraud in history, there’s more than the usual number of stories where the bad guys win. Floridians reelected Scott after he directed state contracts to companies his wife invested in. The bad guys winning is in the DNA. Florida is also the state that has coughed up some of America’s great satirists, so it’s no surprise that Florida Happens is rich in some mordant humor.

I liked Florida Happens quite a lot. The stories are varied and unexpected. My favorite was “All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Hotel” which insisted on surprising me at every turn. “A Postcard for the Dead” gave us a bit of historical mystery and classic deduction. “Frozen Iguana” was perfectly surreal, the harsh reality of drug addiction and murder coupled with iguanas falling from the trees thanks to a cold snap. Really! There’s something for everyone, some private investigation, a little bit of cozy, and a lot of noir. If you like mysteries and find Florida’s penchant for exuberant ridiculousness intriguing, you will love this book.

I received an e-gally of FLORIDA HAPPENS: Tales of Mystery, Mayhem, and Suspense from The Sunshine State from the publisher through Edelweiss

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