DEATH OF A TANGO KING by Jerome Charyn


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Great news for the two or three fans concerned that Charyn’s madly lightsome saga of New York police commissioner/mayor Isaac Sidel may have turned staid in recent installments (El Bronx, 1997, etc.): This freestanding sideshow, dedicated to Paco Ignacio Taibo, the only mystery writer in captivity more gaily surrealistic than Charyn, reads like a collaboration between the two. Charyn borrows Taibo’s south-of-the-border setting (Medell°n and environs, where the CIA has dispatched Yolanda Ramirez from her prison cell to flush out her cousin, drug kingpin Ruben Falcone), his fondness for disguises (both Ruben and Yolanda’s patron, philosophy prof Melvin P. Sparks, change their identities more often than the CIA changes Colombian governments), his borscht-belt view of political intrigue (the fortunes of the Medell°n cartel are shaped by environmentalists protesting the defoliation of Ruben’s hideaway, where his followers don’t launder money but iron it), and his melancholy attachment to the past (Ruben and Yolanda find themselves reenacting the long-ago doomed romance of tango king Guillermo Gaud° and his chica Tulipa Dawn). But loyalists will delight as well in the patented high-speed weightlessness of Charyn’s inimitable (and undilutable) prose. Logic flags, of course, but never invention, as Charyn, for better or worse, outdoes his own wildest fantasies in the shaggiest tale of Greenpeace-endorsed drug trafficking ever committed to paper.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8147-1575-3
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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