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by Ace Atkins
Berkley, April 2007
416 pages
ISBN: 0425214907

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ace Atkins is better known for his books set in the deep south featuring southerner Nick Travers who is a not only a blues fanatic but also quite good at solving mysteries. However, in WHITE SHADOW he has left this engaging character behind and written a noir crime novel set in the 1950s in Tampa.

The premise of WHITE SHADOW is based upon a real but hardly recalled murder of an old-time crime boss called Charlie Wall. Charlie in his heyday was a major mobster within the crowded Latin section of Tampa known as Ybor City. He was also a man with secrets that many would love to get their hands. It was these secrets that ultimately got him killed.

WHITE SHADOWS is also set during the time when Cuba was jumping and still considered to be the playground of the rich and famous. It was a time before Castro when jaunts between America and Cuba were frequent especially by crime figures and politicians who were more than willing to help themselves to the largesse of the President at the time Fulgencio Batista.

It was also a time when we see a young Fidel Castro (who at the time was not so much the alienated person he is now but a much more sympathetic person), as an up-and-coming political figure, a firebrand whose speeches articulated the troubles, despair and downtrodden Cuban; a person whose presence in Florida had more to do with raising money and spreading the word of the revolution than anything else.

The narrator of the story is a young, wholesome crime reporter called LB Turner, a friend of Charlie Wall and the only person in the story whose point of view is told in the first person. Turner may be a decent character but he is also burdened with a perilous enthusiasm for the truth and a helpless craving for a self-destructive woman.

The rich and heady background created by Atkins drags the reader into the sweaty milieu of cigar factories coupled with the strong perspiring smell of the workers who toiled away in the factories mingled with the luscious odour of olive oil.

WHITE SHADOWS is an extremely enjoyable book, and what makes it so good is the multi-layered cast of characters, which add to the intensity of the story, from the various women with dubious morals whose behaviour (especially that of Lucrezia) is as distressing as they could be under the circumstances to the terse cop Ed Dodge who finds himself wallowing in a dirty mire of corruption and sleaze (and thatís just amongst his own colleagues).

It is some times hard to blend a mixture of fiction and non-fiction into a novel that is as rich and as satisfying as WHITE SHADOW but Ace Atkins has managed to pull it off with aplomb especially as one can hear the beat of the Latin music pulsating its way throughout the book.

Reviewed by Ayo Onatade, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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