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RED ANGEL by William Heffernan

RED ANGEL

By William Heffernan

Pub Date: Dec. 13th, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-16563-X
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

After two outings, Heffernan (Cityside, 1999, etc.) summons veteran NYPD Inspector Paul Devlin from hiatus, but then, willy-nilly, whisks him from the Big Apple, where he’s done his best work, to Castro’s Cuba, where Devlin’s lover, the beautiful Adrianna, goes to claim the body of her favorite aunt, Maria, killed in a Havana auto accident. When they arrive there’s no body to claim, and no accident either. Nor, for that matter, was Aunt Maria an ordinary auntie. As the Red Angel, she was a hero of the Revolution, a close ally of Castro’s beloved by the Cuban populace as the result of a life devoted to good works. An enigmatic cop, Major Martinez, is the source of most of this intelligence. His opposite is the evil Colonel Cabrera, of the secret police, who arranged Aunt Maria’s fatal accident and hid her body, though he claims to be searching for it. Cabrera is in cahoots with “John the Boss” Rossi and other Mafia figures to undermine the government, returning Cuba to that halcyon time when rampant racketeering lined the pockets of a cooperative bureaucracy. So what’s really going on here? Something (though not a whole lot) to do with the Mafia, and gambling, and drugs, and a little bit of voodoo—and enough tedious backstory and superfluous tourist info to bog down a much more substantial narrative.

In the absence of a strong storyline, Devlin and company flounder as pathetically as Florida-bound Cubans. The result is almost as much unsatisfactory travelogue as unsatisfactory thriller.