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A straight-shooting Cuban exile gets mixed up in an elaborate multi-million-dollar scheme.

The story begins with parallel protagonists. Colonel Victoria Valiente was born on the day that dictator Batista fled Cuba, a seeming omen of her future success in the Communist regime. As a star in the General Directorate of Intelligence, Victoria was a true believer. Hastening her disillusion is her romance with brilliant mathematician Manuel Pardo, whom she marries in 1991. Having worked extensively in North America and Europe, Pardo develops a more cynical view of Cuba. In the new Cuba, money and power will be the keys to success. The couple begins to formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Cuban exile Elliot Steil (he’s lived in Miami for eight years but maintains his citizenship in Cuba, where he worked for over a decade as an English teacher) takes a meeting with Maria Scheindlin, the beautiful young widow of his boss Ruben, recently deceased. Elliot was personal assistant to Scheindlin, whose considerable business interests stretched from Miami across the Caribbean. Maria expresses interest in learning about her husband’s affairs and Elliot obliges, in a series of meetings. Elliot’s longtime love, Fidelia, arranges a small birthday party for the emotional Lidia, married to Tony Soto, a Miami cop and Elliot’s friend and former student in Cuba. Fidelia detests the sleazy Tony, in no small part because of his abuse of Lidia, and wishes Elliot would avoid him. Tony arranges a sub rosa meeting for Elliot with a pair of FBI agents, Hart and McLellan, who request and then blackmail Elliot into cooperation. The Feebies correctly describe what will happen next: Victoria and Manuel approach Elliot in Cuba about a large sum of money that the deceased Scheindlin owed them. Would Elliot be kind enough to arrange its return?

Subtle and complex chess game of a thriller, with an interesting insider’s view of contemporary Cuba.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8021-1810-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2005


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