A trove of revealing private documents, rumors concerning a political assassination, a trip to Cuba—it’s either today’s newspaper or Dr. Marion Ford’s 22nd adventure.
Even before the embargo is lifted, it’s not all that hard to get Americans to travel to Cuba. Just ask Doc Ford, who agrees to go there to hunt for a missing shortstop and the briefcase he took from Ford’s old frenemy Gen. Juan Simón Rivera. Doc’s willing to chase after Figueroa Casanova even though he knows he’s involved in something illegal—Rivera’s long-running business smuggling Cuban ballplayers into the U.S.—partly because the trip offers the possibility of spotting one of the Pacific Ridley turtles native to the island. And the search is quickly successful, more or less. Ford and Sighurdhr Tomlinson find Casanova early on, but the two old friends get separated shortly thereafter, Tomlinson ending up with Figgy, Ford with the briefcase, which turns out to contain hundreds of personal letters Fidel and Raul Castro wrote to the same woman over a pivotal period in Cuba’s turbulent history. Will the truth about the 1959 revolution, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the killing of JFK come to light? Not if sadistic Santeria priest Vernum Quick and his Russian handler, Anatol Kostikov, have anything to say about it. Luckily, Ford finds an unexpected ally in Sabina Estéban, whose mother sent her and her sister, Maribel, on a boat to Florida after Maribel, 13, witnessed a murder and worse. Sabina may be only 10, but she’s the most resourceful little spitfire you can imagine.
Cuba provides the perfect setting for White’s recent fondness for episodic, hallucinatory quests (Bone Deep, 2014). The next few months’ headlines will determine whether his view of contemporary Cuba is remarkably prophetic or yesterday’s news.