Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Havana Queen by James Bruno

I really hate giving 2-stars to the books I have high hopes for. The first indication is that it isn’t worth anyone’s time and that it’s poorly written. In this case, Havana Queen by James Bruno, is neither. It’s surely worth someone’s time and it definitely isn’t poorly written. Ackwardly written is more like it.

Havana Queen takes place in Cuba. The deteriorating health of the infamous Fidel Castro has put revolution efforts into high gear. There seems not to be a day that goes by that doesn’t have some attack on the Cuban people who want freedom, or the Cuban regime that wants the Communist government to go on business as usual. Rations and subsidies are at a low and the country is basically ready to implode. In walks their Havana queen Larissa Montilla is could possibly keep the sinking ship afloat. Her adversary is Nick Castillo.

Nick Castillo is the Cuban/American sleeper the government needs to infiltrate Cubas impenetrable inner sanctum. He’s tasked with finding out as much possible on the recent attacks on Americans and the reasons behind them. Nick is also to flush out any spies giving secrets to the Cubans. An epic battle of wits ensues between Nick and Larissa. 

James Bruno has been on my radar to read for some time. His background in military intelligence lends credibility to Havana Queen. The keen insight into Cuba’s culture and landscape will leave readers interested in finding out more information about this country. Bruno paints a very vivid picture of a country stuck between the old regime and a need for change. 

Usually when there’s a high body count in any book I'm game to plant myself in my chair and let the wild ride commence. In this case, the deaths didn’t mean anything to me because of the plethora of characters. I barely knew Nick Castillo, or even Larissa Montillo, so it was hard to be angry with someone or to pick a side. The sheer number of spies, counterspies, bad guys turned worse, or good guys turned bad suddenly got cloudy in Havana Queen. I admit that all these intricate moving parts made for some confused and frustrating reading.

Political thrillers are usually my go to when in need of a fun novel but Havana Queennever quite delivers for me. I don’t think this will be the last novel I read by Bruno since his writing is actually pretty good. The structure of this novel takes getting used to but overall, he’s got some chops. Havana Queen is sure to excite fans of espionage and political thrillers. It just sort of missed it’s mark with me.  **

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