Seventeen years ago, someone whose opinions on books NEVER matched mine recommended Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, and I LOVED it. Since then, I’ve grabbed every new DeMille book and been puzzled by the inconsistency: for example, Night Fall was terrific. The Panther? Not so much. And don’t even get me started on Radiant Angel. I kept thinking, “what happened?”
But I can’t quite give up on any author who has provided me with so many hours of entertainment, so I had a positive attitude when I received an advance copy of DeMille’s latest, The Cuban Affair, in return for my honest review (thanks, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley!)
Having thought quite a bit about why I had been so disappointed reading some of his recent books (was it him? Was it me?), I had concluded that the John Corey character was the problem. In the earlier books, he was witty and could be charming. In the more recent books, his wisecracking had become constant, and was more annoying than entertaining, and it seemed to have become his dominant characteristic, to the point where it came across as somewhat cartoonish. So, I was pleased to read that the latest book was introducing a new protagonist, Daniel Graham MacCormick (aka “Mac”). A native of Maine, Mac has seen two tours of Afghanistan and left a career on Wall Street out of boredom and moved to Key West, Florida where he owns a boat that is chartered for fishing, romantic cruises, parties, etc. Mac doesn’t accept every charter request of his boat, so when he is approached by a smooth attorney from Miami who wants to charter his boat for a ten-day fishing derby to Cuba, he initially turns it down.
Once the offer is explained further by the attorney and the plan includes a beautiful Cuban-American woman, AND the fee becomes multiple millions, Mac decides to accept and the adventure begins. Along the way, there are shady characters, guns, booze, sex, crooked police, jealous boyfriends, a chase through swamp and jungle, and a tour group comprised mainly of academics and pseudo-academics (sort of a classic “educational” travel group). Without giving anything away, I suspect we will encounter Mac again for more adventures.
The story is pure entertainment, and DeMille has clearly done his research into Cuban-American relations and politics in the South Florida area. This allows him to explore the passionate feelings of Cuban-Americans and the conditions in contemporary Cuba just as relations between the US and Cuba were being re-established.
The pace is good, and the writing is crisp and entertaining, re-establishing DeMille as one of my favorite thriller writers. A friend who is unable to participate in his usual level of physical activity due to recent open-heart surgery BEGGED me for a book he could get lost in – one that would totally hold his interest. This one met the criteria, so I give The Cuban Affair a solid four stars.