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Newcomer McKinney embroiders a gossamer criminal fantasy on a single historical fact: President Kennedy’s purchase of 1,100 Cuban cigars the night before he ordered the embargo of Cuba in July 1963. What ever became of those cigars when the president was assassinated four months later? McKinney’s giddy but logical premise is that they were stolen to sell to political kingmaker Cornelius Gessleman, who agreed to pay Raul Salazar $20,000 to create a diversion that would allow his team to break into Kennedy’s Cape Cod complex. Gessleman’s horrified when he hears Salazar talk blandly of how the “diversion” his men settled on in Dallas drove up the price of the theft because, accustomed to dealing with toadies and fools like his son-in-law, Rep. Wesley Cameron (R-Fla.), he doesn’t recognize a bluff when he hears one. Nor is he capable of seeing that Salazar, having extracted a whopping premium for the cigars Gessleman had coveted, is planning to swindle him out of them—partly because Salazar, driven out of Cuba years ago by his tobacco-growing father’s silent partners, the Bonafaccio family, has continued to regard the cigars as his own; partly because an unexpected twist has suddenly made them much more valuable; and partly because Salazar, who gradually emerges as the novel’s hero, gets an energizing joy from scamming his enemies. Since those enemies, from petty Gessleman to brutal mob scion Joseph Bonafaccio, Jr., keep coming back for more, and since even the most minor functionaries, from the thugs Salazar sent to boost the cigars to the Yankee constable on their trail, are working their own angles, McKinney is able to keep his pot merrily bubbling long after you’ve lost track of who’s double-crossing whom. The wildly far-fetched plot has its own internal logic, sharpened at every possible moment by the pungent aroma of fine cigars.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20623-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999