An embittered ex-diplomat manipulates the international drug trade for his own mysterious ends.
Prolific Rubinoff (Faces in the Firelight, 2013, etc.) opens his latest novel with a hook. Forty-six-year-old Harry Richmond is driving to a secluded Georgia cabin intent on giving himself a lavish two days of eating and drinking—and then killing himself: “now there remained only fire and the gun.” As he readies his own funeral pyre, his thoughts drift back to the 1970s, when he was a prosperous retailer who owned a string of shops and warehouses in Miami and frequently ventured out of the country on buying trips for “brass, cane, that sort of thing.” On one such trip, he was waiting for a ferry in Tangier when he encountered three strangers: charismatic drug dealer Jack Paladrano; blonde New Yorker Joanna Brenner; and dark-haired, reserved Eiva Terrez, daughter of retired Spanish ambassador Alejandro Terrez Obregon, who’s something of a recluse. When Eiva brought Jack home to meet her father, Don Obregon was evasive about how he was spending his retirement years, but it became clear that deep motives were driving him to build an international network of operatives in pursuit of his own agenda. In parallel plots, Harry in the past becomes more and more embroiled in the world of drug smuggling, which brings him, Joanna and Jack into contact with a cast of dangerous, unsavory characters, the best characterized of whom is businessman-turned-drug-dealer Rueben Diamante, who nearly steals the novel. The intertwined storylines move forward with some expertly handled plot twists and Robert Ludlum–style violence, marred only occasionally by Ludlum–style overwriting (“His words resonated in her brain like a sledgehammer striking a metal peg fixed in concrete”). As the narrative speeds up and grows complicated, Eiva emerges as the book’s central tragic figure, trying and failing to live in two very different worlds.
A smooth, accomplished thriller.