HEAD COUNT by Brian Duffy


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 First novel by Duffy (coauthor of The Fall of Pan Am 103), a former investigative journalist for The Miami Herald. The novel's heart is in the right place, with its sympathetic characters given a rounded basis for our liking them--even the villains have richly stuffed backgrounds for their villainy. And although the plot moves along professionally, it's seldom as outrageous as its first premise. Fado is the ragtag, scraggly capital of a ripped-off African country, whose streets are potholed beyond belief and littered with wrecked cars--and whose police force has shrunk to two: beer-swilling Chief Carlos, a wipeout, and Chief of Detectives Humberto Gub. There's a semidyslexic woman typist, but the ten desks in the trashed-out squadroom are always empty. Aside from a cashew-nut factory, there's no money in Fado and its best citizens have left, especially top detective Mireles, who is now in America and--because of his language skills--a member of the FBI. One day five bald-shaved and severed heads appear in Fado: one on the diving board of the city's single respectable hotel, one on a downtown sidewalk, the rest in public places. Someone is trying to upset the citizenry: Indeed, the chief villain, running the rebel forces, has plans to move into Fado and install his own government. He's assisted by a wonderful trio of psychopaths, each famed for his skill at mayhem. The following day another five heads appear. Detective Gub is on the move, tracking down clues while trying to pacify his girlfriend Betty, who runs a Save the Children group, and Mireles flies in from New York to help his old buddy just as the villains turn to Semtex and start blowing the town apart. The reader can't believe that Fado is now or ever will be worth the agony the two detectives go through. A Marx Brothers plot taken too seriously.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-399-13669-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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