Doc Ford’s old friend, General Juan Garcia, has gone into the lucrative business of smuggling Cuban baseball players into the U.S. He is also feasting on profits made by buying historical treasures for pennies on the dollar. He prefers what dealers call HPC items—high-profile collectibles—but when he manages to obtain a collection of letters written by Fidel Castro between 1960–62 to a secret girlfriend, it’s not a matter of money anymore. Read more...
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What is a Bargain?
Doc Ford’s old friend, General Juan Garcia, has gone into the lucrative business of smuggling Cuban baseball players into the U.S. He is also feasting on profits made by buying historical treasures for pennies on the dollar. He prefers what dealers call HPC items—high-profile collectibles—but when he manages to obtain a collection of letters written by Fidel Castro between 1960–62 to a secret girlfriend, it’s not a matter of money anymore. Garcia has stumbled way out of his depth.
First Garcia disappears, and then the man to whom he sold the letters. When Doc Ford begins to investigate, he soon becomes convinced that those letters contain a secret that someone, or some powerful agency, cannot allow to be made public.
A lot happened between Cuba and the United States from 1960–62. Many men died. A few more will hardly be noticed.
- ISBN-13: 9780399158148
- ISBN-10: 0399158146
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 336
- Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
Series: Doc Ford Novel #19
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Present-day Cuba is the setting of bestseller White’s timely 22nd Doc Ford thriller (after 2014’s Bone Deep). The former dictator of Masagua, “a tiny country that exported bananas and revolution,” turns to Ford for help after he temporarily “loses” Figueroa Casanova, a Cuban baseball player he smuggled into the U.S. Casanova wandered off from his St. Petersburg, Fla., motel, carrying a briefcase full of letters written by Fidel Castro to the dictator’s mistress from 1953 to 1963. Ford’s unpredictable sidekick, Tomlinson, manages to locate Casanova and decides to return him and the Castro letters to Cuba. When Ford learns that a Russian spy, among others, is after the letters, he heads to Cuba to find Tomlinson. More than one distraction diverts Ford from his mission, including investigating the legend that three American ballplayers buried their new motorcycles in Cuba the day Castro took power. White smoothly combines history, action, and colorful characters into a savory concoction easily devoured in a single sitting. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.)
Whodunit: Secrets come back to bite you
The crime of blackmail must be about as old as mankind, when the first child caught his sibling doing something naughty and cagily offered the offender an out—for a price. Countless tales have been spun about blackmail, but rarely with such an original twist as in Harlan Coben’s The Stranger. For the person known only as “the Stranger,” money is secondary to the justice he (or she) is able to mete out to wrongdoers who erroneously believe the Internet offers them a measure of anonymity. Case in point: With the help of an Internet novelty company, Corinne Price faked a pregnancy and a subsequent miscarriage to salvage a marriage she felt was coming apart. Pregnancy test: paper strips that show “positive” every time. Sonogram: someone else’s, doctored with Corinne’s information. Abdomen: an ever-increasing jelly belly that would magically disappear with the “miscarriage.” Now the deception has come back to bite her in a big way, at the most inopportune time imaginable. This is but one of several deceptions, each separately and painstakingly constructed, connected only by the shadowy and distinctly ominous presence of the Stranger.
Longtime readers of Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti novels are in for a treat. Her new book, Falling in Love, harkens back to the first novel in the series, Death at La Fenice, in which Brunetti cleared the name of opera singer and murder suspect Flavia Petrelli. The diva is in need of Brunetti’s help once again, this time as victim rather than as suspect. It seems an obsessed fan has entered Petrelli’s life, bombarding her with bouquets of exquisite yellow roses. At first the attention and the adulation was flattering, but that was before the roses began to pile up in her dressing room and in her locked apartment. And before a young singer publicly complimented by Petrelli was brutally thrown down a staircase. Brunetti must intervene (with the able assistance of ever-so-resourceful and devious Signorina Elettra) in an attempt to forestall any further violence. Fans of exceptionally character-driven mysteries will find lots to like here.
Of all the would-be successors to John D. MacDonald’s legendary Travis McGee, Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford stands out as the clear frontrunner. Cuba Straits, the latest in a long line of tropical adventures, finds the canny Florida marine biologist and his hippie sidekick, Tomlinson, tangled up in a situation with tendrils reaching back to the heady days of the Cuban revolution. Meanwhile, in modern times, as the U.S. and Cuba edge ever closer to détente, Juan Garcia’s business of smuggling first-rate Cuban baseball players to American teams may be in jeopardy. But the danger of that endeavor pales in comparison to the sensitive nature of some letters he has recently acquired for resale. Ostensibly love letters indicating that Fidel and Raúl Castro were once in love with the same woman, these pages may expose something altogether darker—something worth killing over almost 60 years later. And then Garcia disappears, basically without a trace. If the hitherto forbidden landscape of Cuba speaks to you, if you miss Travis McGee like a long-lost brother, if you value a writer whose easy familiarity with his milieu is evident on every page, look no further.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, who has notably chronicled the life and times of Oslo cop Harry Hole, has jumped the tracks with his latest standalone novel, Blood on Snow, taking his readers along for the first-person narrative of Olav, a slightly slow-witted contract killer, or “fixer.” Olav has tried other crime jobs over the years, driving getaway cars, robbing banks and so on, but the only thing he seems talented at is “fixing” people. Now he faces a conundrum: Olav’s boss wants his wife fixed. If Olav carries out this fix, he will hold dangerous knowledge about his boss. And if he doesn’t, when some other fixer does the job, Olav will still know that the boss is responsible. It’s truly a damned-if-you do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. So Olav must navigate uncharted territory to do the bidding of his boss, but in such a way as to ensure against any deadly repercussions. At the heart of the story is the fact that Olav is basically a sweet-natured individual, not the hardened sociopath one might expect of someone in his line of work. In the end, this may prove to be his salvation—or his undoing. This is a fascinating character study, a clever and engaging mystery and a terrific example of a chameleon-like writer successfully stretching his already broad limits.