Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by José Latour
McClelland & Stewart, February 2007
344 pages
$22.99 CDN
ISBN: 0771046618

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Despite his name, Elliot Steil is thoroughly Cuban. The son of an American father who deserted him and his Cuban mother and whom he barely knew, he grew up in Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba, studied English at the University of Havana, and settled into a fairly aimless existence as an English-language teacher, womanizer, and part-time drunk.

But whether it's a matter of heredity or coincidence, Elliot has never quite measured up as a successful Cuban citizen. His bad feet prevented him from volunteering for service in Nicaragua, his participation at patriotic rallies is less than zealous and all in all, he is deemed unreliable by the shadowy figures who decide such things. He is denied a deserved promotion at work and realizes with dismay that he has little to look forward to in Havana.

In addition, the privations of the post-Soviet period have cost him forty pounds he did not need to lose. Thus, although he has virtually no illusions about what the United States might have to offer, he is open to the surprise suggestion of a visiting American presenting himself as his father's friend that he abandon his homeland for Miami and America.

Of course, nothing works out quite as advertised. He is betrayed and almost dies crossing the sea to the United States and once in Miami finds he must adapt to a criminal underworld if he is to survive and discover exactly who wants him dead and why. Fortunately, Elliot is a fast learner and fortunately, too, he does benefit from genuine kindness from an unexpected source. The plot that unfolds is tautly suspenseful, as one might expect from a writer who cut his teeth on Raymond Chandler.

OUTCAST is set in the early 1990s and was first published in 1999. It was Latour's first novel to be written in English and was published abroad while he was still resident in Cuba. Several years later, he emigrated first to Spain and then to Canada. He now lives in Toronto. It is tempting thus to view this book as an imaginative exercise in prospective exile – while clear-eyed about the shortcomings of Cuba, it by no means embraces the promise of America. It poignantly anticipates what the Cubans call 'having a sparrow', homesickness for even a flawed homeland.

Although a highly satisfactory thriller, it is this last quality that most recommends the book, as it touchingly expresses the ambivalent emotions and attachments of an unwilling exile for his native land. Now that Cuba seems poised on the brink of great change following the anticipated death of Fidel Castro, this seems an especially apt re-issue.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, February 2007

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]