The anatomy of an intricate casino heist and its aftermath.
It’s 1958. Popular Pope Pius XII is dying; the Yankees are meeting the Braves in a tightly fought World Series that’s attracting a lot of gambling action; Cuba’s President Batista is struggling to keep his government together in the face of rampant corruption and the encroachment of rebel forces, seemingly stronger every day; and American crime kingpin Meyer Lansky is battling to keep his parallel Havana gambling empire intact in the face of covert threats by his stateside rivals Joe Bonanno and Joe Profaci. Lansky thinks a new local discount abortion business is the Joes’ subtle attempt to gain a foothold in the region. But he has reason to worry about more than competition. At the instigation of the rival duo, Cuban career criminal Mariano “Ox” Cabreras has put together a colorful local crew to rob Lansky’s showplace, the Casino de Capri. Ox’s accomplices include a Lebanese-born jeweler, a family-minded car thief, and a handsome male prostitute turned casino dealer. The inevitable snafu in the crime’s execution gives Bureau of Investigation chief Colonel Orlando Grava promising leads to follow, but fuzzy allegiances and moral murk complicate the probe and spice up the novel considerably.
Latour (Outcast, 1999, etc.) writes beautifully in prose that’s lean and lucid and never overwhelmed by noir “style.” An additional bonus is his perceptive depiction of late-’50s Cuba.