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MAGIC CITY by James W. Hall

MAGIC CITY

By James W. Hall

Pub Date: March 13th, 2007
ISBN: 0-312-27179-4
Publisher: Minotaur

A 40-year-old photograph triggers a spate of killings in southern Florida.

Snake Morales is the son of a Cuban exile. The biggest night of his life came in 1964, when he was 12 and his idol Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston right there in Miami. Later that night, masked men and a masked woman broke into his house, killing his father (organizer of a small anti-Castro militia), his mother and his devout sister Carmen. Snake killed one intruder with a machete and mangled the hand of another, but his failure to save Carmen, the love of his life, consumed him. Stanton King, the charismatic young mayor, and his wife Lola adopted Snake and his kid brother Carlos, but this provided no relief. Fast-forward to 2004, when the washed-up former mayor notices a photo of the fight that shows him sitting beside four clandestine types. Realizing the photo could compromise national security, King goes bananas. He has Snake and Carlos burn every copy they can find. Carlos, “still a junior high punk,” kills the photographer for kicks. Enter Thorn, that free spirit of the Keys (Forests of the Night, 2005, etc.), along with his main squeeze Alexandra and her grouchy father Lawton, who has the last remaining copy of the photo. Thorn and Snake form an uneasy partnership to unravel the tangled history behind the incriminating photo and the Morales family massacre, which was both a crime of passion and a CIA plot. There are murders galore, but the premise—that national security is still at risk—isn’t credible, and the crazed avenger Snake is a troubling protagonist, neither hero nor villain in a genre that craves tidy definitions. Factor in four bad guys with separate missions tripping over each other, and the result of all the fits and starts is more confusion than suspense.

Disappointing.