The head of a CIA front gets in over his head in the deadly underworld of 1980s Florida in this thriller from Sealy (The Whiskey Baron, 2015).
In 1984, Bobby West, a middle-aged, recently divorced father of one, is the chief financial officer of a holding company in Miami, where he’s simply a steward for secret, risk-averse benefactors: “All of the Artium Group’s legitimate businesses were merely fronts for the CIA…. as near as West could tell, the information he filed simply went into a vault for posterity.” When local drug kingpin Alexander French approaches West with a scheme that involves money laundering, he sees a chance to finally make some real cash. Then West’s 18-year-old daughter, Holly Hernandez, steals $3 million of French’s cash from her father’s house and leaves town with her boyfriend. As private investigator Ernie Falcon sets out to bring Hernandez back to her mother, West must contend with a very angry French, as well as the drug lord’s deadly partner, Israeli smuggler Adriana Chekhov. With drugs, cops, bombs, and Cuban exiles in the mix, West soon misses his boring old life. Sealy’s prose is clipped and controlled, maximizing the realism of his characters’ thought processes: “Of course he had no idea…if Holly had ever had a boyfriend. He supposed she must have, but she never talked about such things with him. She knew about the safe in his house, he knew that.” This straightforward style helps to sell the less-believable aspects of the plot, and as a result, readers will quickly find themselves drawn into the realm of West’s mistakes and misjudgments. Sealy’s skill makes the story feel not only urgent but somehow important—an impressive achievement for an escapist thriller.
A finely crafted, serious-minded novel of overreach and deadly consequences.