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NORTH OF HAVANA
by Randy Wayne White
Berkley, May 1998
253 pages
$6.99
ISBN: 042516294X


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Doc Ford's best friend, the loopy hippy Tomlinson, calls him from Cuba to tell him that he has unwittingly piloted his boat into Cuban waters and is now unable to leave the country unless he pays $10,000 to ransom his boat. He wants Doc to drop everything and head for Cuba to rescue him. Oh, and by the way, could he please bring the $10,000 with him in cash?

Doc's reluctant to do this for more than one reason. First, he was once a CIA operative in Cuba during the dangerous days of the Mariel boat lift and if he were recognized he would be imprisoned or worse. Secondly, he is at the very moment of Tomlinson's call about to make love with his gal pal, a gorgeous lesbian tennis pro named Dewey. In addition to all that, Tomlinson has never been the same since he was hit by lightning and Doc is growing impatient with his friend's increasingly bizarre behavior.

But of course the ties of friendship prevail and he goes to Cuba. Dewey tags along because it's Christmas and she doesn't want to spend the holiday alone on Doc's boat. She's just broken up with her lover and is seeking easy companionship and buddy sex with her good friend Doc, so she insists on going along. Against his better judgment, Doc relents and finally allows her to accompany him.

Once they get to the island, they meet up with an assortment of would-be Castro assassins, an old time Soviet agent who now works on Fidel's security detail and a charismatic Santeria priest.

The first half of the book is readable and Havana is described very well, but I found White's relentless anti-Castro rants a little wearing after a while. Tomlinson is just a little too over-the-top here, and the fact that his eccentric weirdness is costing people their lives robs him of the sympathetic amusement I felt for him in White's previous books.

All in all, there is just too much mad-cap, action-packed running around to allow the reader to feel much more than exhausted by the time the story's improbable sentimental ending rolls around.

No question, White can write, and this book has many vivid passages that I enjoyed a great deal. But, geez, I really would rather have re-read one of his other novels. Dewey deserves a better story than this one and so do we.

Reviewed by Carroll Johnson, December 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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