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The Havana Room

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  586 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Bill Wyeth is a rising real estate attorney living the lofty heights of success. Then a tragic accident claims everything he has: his family, his fortune, his career. But this is Manhattan, and Bill has much further to fall. His downward spiral lands him at the table of Allison Sparks, the dangerously alluring owner of a midtown steakhouse. She needs a personal favor of hi ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Picador (first published 2004)
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Maya Lang
Feb 21, 2014 Maya Lang rated it really liked it
I loved this book because of how different it is. It has a masculine edge (imagine a hazy cigar room in a steakhouse, the dark sense of a Manhattan noir) without being simplistic or one-note, and I loved the philosophical echoes throughout. The result is a page-turner that's lyrical, with a distinct mood. It felt like Bonfire of the Vanities with a bit of The Firm and a dash of Cormac McCarthy, all with an epigraph from Schopenhauer (!). There are echoes of Gatsby: a larger-than-life Jay we watc ...more
Aug 27, 2008 Brady rated it really liked it
So I'm in the airport, about to board a flight, and I go into one of those bookstores that usually has just the New York Times' top 20 bestsellers list. My hope is to find a book that will at least engage me for the next three hours. I chose The Havana Room, and I literally could not put it down. Harrison takes the reader into a world of constant intrigue, into the private room of a Midtown Manhattan steakhouse that ends up smelling like sex and sushi, a dynamic combo to say the least. If you li ...more
Don Gorman
Dec 26, 2013 Don Gorman rated it really liked it
I thought this was a really well written book. A wonderfully shifting story that just keeps turning and churning. A great New York City focus made it fun for me as well. There is a three page description of the history of New York at the beginning of chapter 4 that is one of the most outstanding synopses I have ever read. I was turned on to this by one of those one page author interviews in the Sunday Times book review section a couple of weeks ago. I am glad i followed up on it.
Jan 07, 2011 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
An incredibly great writer, one whose prose you can just roll around in, writes another of his literary thrillers. The first quarter or so is brilliant, including his ruminations on the isle of Manhattan. Few capture the essence of the city better. But for all its successes, the novel winds up feeling like a Donald Westlake comic mystery. Lots of skimming for me, but still, a very hard writer to put down, despite my instincts to throw the book against the wall now and then.
Sep 19, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
Colin Harrison is enchanted by New York City.

That is obvious from every page of his novel, The Havana Room. An intriguing tale of crime and intrigue set against the backdrop of the dark, underground New York City, this one is a page-turner for sure.

As a Manhattanite myself at the time of reading this, I found myself longing to discover my own secret pockets of New York City. A great read, and magnificent sense of place.
Sep 09, 2012 Catherine rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and could not put it down. For me, the plot was not too far fetched to enjoy at all - it was thrilling! I thought the genius of it was that the tiniest little detail, coincidence or (with hindsight) mistake can change a persons life forever. It tells a colourful story and warns you of the fragility of life. A stranger lent me this novel on along bus journey, a few years ago and It is now my favourite.
Jim Coughenour
Aug 08, 2007 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it
Shelves: bleakfiction
I was skeptical about reading this book after reading Afterburn — which started off fantastic then deteriorated into bleak masochism. The Havana Room stays the course. Colin Harrison is a smart writer; this book is full of urban esoterica, quite satisfying for a late-night read. If you enjoy mournful neo-noir, you don't really need a summary of the set-up: just jump in and enjoy.

Jun 02, 2008 Brent rated it really liked it
What a fun read! This is a great page turner and Harrison is a top notch author. All in all, I highly recommend this book for fans of NYC, crime fiction junkies, Noir specialists and others that just enjoy a fun story. Harrison reminds me of a faster paced Turow-- lots of plot twists and really great characters.
Mar 08, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it
A supremely satisfying thriller. I was hooked after about 15 pages, and then couldn't put it down.

Bill Wyeth is a NYC lawyer. Very successful. Very rich. Living the high life with his wife and son. One night, when Bill's son, Timothy, is having some boys over to spend the night, the incomprehensible happens. One of the boys gets up in the night and wants a drink. Bill, who has just eaten take-away Thai food, gets Wilson a drink and thinks no more about it. The next morning, Wilson does not get u
Feb 24, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
On the whole, I liked this a little better than The Finder even though I gave them the same rating. The opening of this book is startling and it's terrifying how the main character goes from being a high powered lawyer to a seriously wounded and lost man. Harrison is definitely in tune with Manhattan's elite and how they slum it in the underworld. In a lot of ways The Havana Room itself is like a high class Fight Club, which is what I was expecting. Harrison's gift is creating vivid and distinct ...more
Mel Allred
Feb 07, 2009 Mel Allred rated it really liked it
I always enjoy Colin Harrison, but certainly not because of his bright outlook. So often his characters become mired in destructive situations from which they are never able to extricate themselves. Also his books often end with the destruction of said characters. The Havana Room, although darkened by the usual temperament of Mr. Harrison's view of humanity was a surprising and welcome diversion from the previous novels of his I have read. I do, I admit, enjoy his overt sexual depictions and hi ...more
Dec 23, 2010 Janet rated it it was ok
Two stars is actually to much. Yet it was better than one. Started out like a dumb soap-opera.
Sorry the part of killing a innocent kid cause this dork (Bill) was to lazy to wash his hands after eating greasy Thia food, is a bit much. After eating, Bill who just arrived home late and all is asleep goes into watch some TV (porn) wanting to get his rocks off. Then getting caught by this young man, who is thirsty. This silly fool gets the boy a drink with his still nasty greasy hands.{This guys pro
Pop Bop
Dec 21, 2015 Pop Bop rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Essential Manhattan Noir

Forget the plot. No one understands "The Big Sleep" and it may be one of the best novels ever written. Wyeth is down and out in Manhattan. He's musing and moody. He's drawn into an off kilter world of money, intrigue and mystery, loaded with questionable and duplicitous characters, and centered by an alluring femme.

This is literate, almost painfully rich, writing. It's digressive, and some bits go on too long, and we occasionally take side trips to nowhere. But to me, co
Apr 15, 2014 Patsy rated it really liked it
This is the first book I've read by this author and I am blown away. The story is complex and compelling and the writing is fabulous. It's a bit dark but well totally a must read. It's a bit reminiscent of Bonfires of the Vanities. An up and coming 40-ish lawyer is riding hight in NYC until a tragic accident causes his fall from grace and he hits rock bottom. Then, he discovers a steakhouse where the Havana room exists. That's all I want to say so I won't spoil this story.
Ryan Chapman
Nov 26, 2007 Ryan Chapman rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, lightweight
I haven't read a straightforward "thriller" in so long, the genre felt like an undiscovered country: you mean you're allowed to put that much plot in a book? It's okay if some characters are obvious stereotypes? And then ending is somewhat underwhelming?

Still, this was also the first book in a long time to keep me up at night, refusing to put it down. That might be one of the oldest book blurbs in the blurb book, but it's true in this case. 4:30am. Not even kidding.
Mar 08, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This turned out to be a pretty good book. The author knows how to paint a picture, and you definitely feel how fleeting money and power can be. It reads as obvious fiction, in that 'too much happening to one person' kind of way. But it has some interesting characters and moves along nicely.
The story also takes palce in Manhatten, and the author shows his love for the city and it's way of life.
Jennifer Worrell
Jun 12, 2016 Jennifer Worrell rated it it was amazing
I read The Havana Room (Harrison) because of an excerpt example in a craft book (can't remember what or why, but I digress). It's an interesting book to study from. I hope someday I can write even a little bit like this guy.
I'm now ordering this as a bit of a craft book in itself. I'd say a good 75% of it is narration, and it's beautifully done. There's a sentence that's 3-1/2 PAGES long, with a fantastic, lyrical rhythm. The MC is your average fella, but I was completely drawn in from the start
May 23, 2010 Jrobertus rated it liked it
Polly raved about this book for style and plot so I gave it a go. Harrison writes well, and is concerned with developing his main character's identity, thoughts, and motivations. Maybe a little too much of that. The story centers on a real estate attorney, Bill Wyeth, who inadvertently poisons a young boy at his son's sleepover; he gets the kid a glass of milk with peanut oil on his pinkies and the highly allergic tyke bites the big one. this leads his wife to abandon him, and the boys father to ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Harrison won legions of fans with his previous novels Afterburn (2000) and Manhattan Nocturne (1997), and his new novel promises not to disappoint. The suspenseful plot, film noir atmosphere, and unique details like hallucinogenic sushi will keep readers actively engaged. What's more, in Bill Wyeth, Harrison has created a character with a lot to lose--his family, career, and sanity, for starters--and his plight provides an emotional backdrop to the chases and killings. A few naysayers found that

Miami University Libraries
A very nicely written, engaging thriller that follows what seems to be the pattern for Colin Harrison’s novels: a man is taken from his family, and the familiar comforts of financial stability and status, and dragged through the gutters that vein the vivid underbelly of New York City. The characters are sharp, sexy, believable, and the story compels you to follow it through. A minor disappointment in The Havana Room is that the concluding revelations seemed to overlap too conveniently among the ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book! It kept my interest and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. There was good character development and I cared about each one. It felt very tightly written...there were no loose ends, it didn't leave you wondering about small details. This was my first Colin Harrison book, but it won't be my last!
Dec 21, 2008 Tim rated it liked it
"The Havana Room," one of those gritty modern noir thrillers, has much to recommend it. The strong, sometimes brutal plot keeps chugging along, and Harrison handles nicely this story of a well-to-do man's descent after a horrible accident.

Harrison's writing for the first 40 pages or so is so superb your expectations will be sent sky-high. The fantastic wordplay dies down thereafter, though, as if Harrison spent far less time crafting as the novel went on. Still, this is a strong effort (probably
A very nicely written, engaging thriller that follows what seems to be the pattern for Colin Harrison’s novels: a man is taken from his family, and the familiar comforts of financial stability and status, and dragged through the gutters that vein the vivid underbelly of New York City. The characters are sharp, sexy, believable, and the story compels you to follow it through. A minor disappointment in The Havana Room is that the concluding revelations seemed to overlap too conveniently among the ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Aengus rated it liked it
Bat shit crazy "legal thriller" reminiscent of the movie "After Hours", without the dark humor. Despite enormous plot holes, maguffins and cardboard cutout ethnic stereotypes (INscrutable Chinamen! Oversexed Negros!), it's an oddly enjoyable page turner. Go figure.
Mar 24, 2008 LisaRose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
At times brutal, at times quixotic, this novel by Colin Harrison is always a quirky little read. The sometimes~tough~to~follow plot weaves in and out of many places in New York City and Long Island making both an integral part of the story. Had I not had the benefit of growing up in NYC, I don't think I could have followed the story as well as I did.

Additionally, the legalese, real estate jargon, medical and gangsta vernacular could serve to put off some readers. The nearly~formulaic conclusion
Apr 11, 2011 Meredith rated it liked it
This is another book to which I would have awarded 3.5 stars, were it possible. The plot was too farfetched for me to give it a fourth star, but it was quite well-written and some of the characters were interesting. The author needs to get better medical consultants, however - the treatment regimen for asthma that was described was totally unrealistic [speaking as a practicing ashtmatic...] - and he needs a better copy editor - it's *hyperbaric* oxygen, not *hyperbolic* oxygen - probably a case ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Robert rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
liked it okay - but didn't really grab me
Mar 10, 2015 Mpharris1 rated it really liked it
This was a page turner. I was on a plane yesterday and I was 98% complete when we landed and I literally kept reading as I walked to baggage claim and waited for my luggage. While some of the scenarios are not quite believable, it is quite a ride. The story starts with a tragedy that totally changes the lives of one man, his family and the people he later meets. His downfall has a "Bonfire of the Vanities" quality that does not detract from the mystery.
Apr 24, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it
I really started to get into this book as the first third of the book captures the reader's attention a bit in the style of some of Tom Wolfe's books. A Man in Full comes to mind. The pace slows down, however, so I agree with those who found this as its weakness. Slips into some incredulous scenes in the last third of the book. Since there are no 3 1/2 stars, I gave it a 4, but it was a real tossup.
Mark Rahe
May 13, 2014 Mark Rahe rated it really liked it
Intriguing story about a New York City lawyer who falls from fortune through a freak accident. After he reaches the gutter he climbs back up through a complicated set of circumstances and some interesting characters. Some parts of the book bog down due to an excessive amount of wordiness but it was still an enjoyable read as it introduces at least to me some unique aspects of big city life.
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Colin Harrison is a crime novelist. He is a vice president and senior editor at Scribner.
He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife, the writer Kathryn Harrison, and their three children (Sarah, Walker and Julia).

He attended: Haverford College, BA 1982; University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. MFA 1986

His short nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Po
More about Colin Harrison...

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