Book cover

As Election Day creeps ever nearer, we’ve been inundated with nonfiction books and films telling us just how dangerous and inept the current occupant of the Oval Office is. In the last month or so alone, I’ve seen and reviewed documentaries persuasively arguing that Donald J. Trump is psychologically handicapped (#Unfit) and environmentally hostile (Public Trust).

Combine these with the almost daily threats to our democracy that emanate from 45’s own lips, and you have a situation that leaves our nerves frayed and longing for a break. Fortunately, I found one in the form of a satirical novel that is as politically astute as it is viciously funny.

Released at the end of August, Carl Hiaasen’s Squeeze Me takes place roughly now in the part of north Florida that serves as Trump’s second home. After pulling us in the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy society matron, Hiaasen keeps us turning pages with a plot that involves giant reptiles, jingoistic attacks and one woman’s stubborn search for the truth.

The missing matron is Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons, last seen attending a charity gala at an exclusive Palm Beach club. Her remains can’t be found, but what is found is a massive Burmese python, a member of a species that has already invaded southern Florida. Eager to avoid scaring off potential guests, the club’s manager calls in animal-control expert Angie Armstrong and orders her to dispose of the snake as quickly and quietly as possible.

Angie attempts to do so, but the reptile’s carcass is stolen before she can take it to its final resting place. Who would go to the trouble of stealing a huge dead python, and why? Angry and curious, Angie is determined to find the answers.

Meanwhile, Kiki’s disappearance has not gone unnoticed thanks to the fact that she was a member of the POTUS Pussies, a local group of wealthy matrons who are devoted to the commander-in-chief. When a recent immigrant turns up with possibly incriminating evidence, they theorize that Kiki was targeted by one of the homicidal aliens Trump has spent years warning them about. Thanks to the generosity of their campaign donations, their concerns soon make their way to the president, who is only too happy to renew his attacks on his favorite target: “homicidal” immigrants.  

Yes, Trump himself does show up in Squeeze Me, though he and the first lady are referred to only by what’s alleged to be their respective Secret Service code names: Mastodon and Mockingbird. The latter comes off as surprisingly relatable, but “Mastodon” is depicted as a vain and shallow man who’s addicted to Dr Pepper, tanning booths and politically expedient lies. The result is that Angie’s quest to reveal the truth about Kiki’s disappearance is complicated by a hurricane of malicious tweets.

With Squeeze Me, Hiaasen gives us a great yarn with a courageous heroine and a hilarious but dastardly villain—who, sadly, is only slightly exaggerated from the nonfiction counterpart we see on the nightly news. Still, it’s comforting to watch this version of Trump headed for a possible come-uppance as we wait and hope for the same to happen in real life.

More reviews by Richard Ades can be found on his movie blog,