For most of his life, Tim Picasso has not had the means to support the lifestyle he feels he richly deserves. He has struggled as an artist, living out his bohemian existence in a Boston loft, "brooding, painting, and starving." When a chance encounter with Andrew, an old college mate, offers him the opportunity for a free Caribbean sailing trip, Tim jumps at it. What he doesn't know is that the sailboat has been stolen from Venezuela, and that it is laden with cocaine. " ÔNo worries,' said Andrew, Ôthey bought it off the Coast Guard . . .' " Things go from bad to worse when Andrew disappears off the side of the boat after a night's carousing, and Tim is left to make his way back to the safety of the United States.

Upon arrival in the Florida Keys, Tim is greeted by a Florida Mafioso by the name of Jesus Castro. Jesus informs Tim in no uncertain terms that in Andrew's absence, it is Tim's responsibility to deliver the cocaine to an IRA agent in Boston, and that refusal would not be in Tim's best interests. The IRA folks, in turn, will give Tim a briefcase to deliver to Jesus Castro. "And don't you look in the bag or I @#$%^ kill you," admonishes Jesus as Tim departs.

Well, you know Tim has to look in the briefcase, despite the dire warning from Jesus Castro. He finds, quite literally, a pirate's fortune: $1.5 million dollars, half in bearer bonds, and half in $100 bills. Tim considers his options; he has no family to worry about, he has no significant other in his life. For that matter, he has no life. So he does what one does in that sort of situation he takes it on the lam. The gods, however, are nothing if not mischievous, and Tim makes it no further than a cheesy Cape Cod bed and breakfast just as the storm of the century is about to unleash its fury on the Eastern seaboard. An irritated make that enraged Jesus Castro is hot on his trail, and it's anybody's guess who will survive the multiple perils of crime, revenge, and high winds.

Monahan is a latter day "English-bad-boy" author, a worthy successor to Kingsley Amis. His understated cleverness and irreverence hold sway as he alternates between sly hipness and laugh-out-loud slapstick. Light House is his first novel, which has been optioned by Warner Bros. for the silver screen. Rumor has it that Monahan is home in Massachusetts, at work on his second.

Bruce Tierney is a writer in Nashville.

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