It may be only 90 miles from Miami to Havana, but Max Pauling, retired from the CIA to become a pilot and flight instructor, has the feeling he’s traveling years into the past when he agrees to make the flight, ostensibly in order to do a routine delivery, but actually to find out whether America’s own BTK Industries is using the German firm of Strauss-Lochner Resources as a front for its acquisition of revolutionary cancer therapies under development alongside the island’s sugar and tobacco. Hooking up with glamorous contact Celia Sardiña, Max (Murder in Foggy Bottom, 2000) soon finds that the scheme masterminded by ex-Senator Price McCullough, BTK’s wily chief, is only the tip of the cigar. Eons seem to pass, though, before inoffensive Strauss-Lochner liaison Kurt Grünewald becomes the casualty who justifies Truman’s title. And it’s even longer before Max, shortly after foiling an attempt on Fidel Castro’s life during the president’s birthday festivities, is set up as the fall guy in another killing and has to take it on the lam, his old Agency colleagues no more trustworthy allies than the Policía National de la Revolución in his frantic quest to get off the island and cover those magical 90 miles.
As usual, conscientious Truman seasons the pot with so many government functionaries, subplots, and fun facts about the setting that the results, though sober and suggestive about US-Cuba rapprochement, are neither gripping nor credible. Patient readers, though, will learn the location of every Hemingway statue in Havana.