Monday, June 19, 2006

Havana Passage by Jay Lillie: A review

This is going to be passed along to the Joe Bob Briggs folks for eventual posting.

I took this book on the cruise, but didn't have as much chance to read it as I had hoped. Ended up finishing it during my daily commutes. While, as I state in the review it reminded me of the similar PATRIOT TRAP I reviewed a few weeks ago, it was a decent read if you don't go all political about this type of thing.
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HAVANA PASSAGE by Jay Lillie
Published by Ivy House Publishing Group
ISBN: 1571974520

With the end of the Cold War writers of thriller/suspense novels have had to search for a new foe for their heroes to confront. International drug cartels just don’t cut it anymore, so since 9/11 various Islamic nations or ‘terrorist’ groups have become the main focus.
While the last few Communist nations (China & North Korea, for example) can still cast their evil shadows over the U.S. and their allies, it really amazes me that some authors seem to let their gaze wander only ninety miles from our shores.

In the past few months this is the second book I’ve reviewed in which the main character and his/her companions are threatened by elements in Cuba. In both, the chief protagonist ends up in Havana, caught between parties attempting to overthrow the Castro government or attempting to gain power when the current regime ends with Fidel’s passing. Also, oddly enough, in both novels the characters at some point are escaping from Cuba by boat only to be caught off the Florida Keys in approaching storms or hurricanes. I guess this happens more frequently than you’d think.

When a fishing vessel is stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Cuba, it is discovered that one of the men aboard is without documentation. When the boat’s owner is arrested and his boat confiscated this triggers a series of events which brings together law student Kate Stevens, Washington D.C. lawyer Gordon Cox and the first female President of the United States. The President, looking to end the decades old trade embargo, sends Kate and Gordon (who at one time dated Kate’s mother) to Havana in order to discover what the reaction might be to such a decision. The lawyers find that things are much more complicated than they appear with angry Cuban exiles on one side and a possible coup by Army officers on the other. Add to this mix the mysterious Santiago deCristo, a one time member of Castro’s elite guard who has his own reasons to return to his native land.

Writer Lillie brings an old fashion feel to his book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a fast read, ideal for vacation reading. The author throws in the occasional sexual detail and “F” bomb, but it feels as if he is doing it more to appeal to a section of readership who want that sort of thing, rather than something which comes naturally. While the character of the President never rises above reminding me of Geena Davis in COMMANDER IN CHIEF, Lillie brings enough life to the rest of his cast to pull the book up a notch from similar fare.

Three stars
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