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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,392 ratings  ·  96 reviews
LaBrava is vintage Leonard: a blend of the true-to-life and the totally make-believe, the cinematic and the suspenseful, the world we know and a whole lot of worlds we're glad we don't. Only Leonard can concoct such a potent cocktail: one part raw humanity, one part pure insanity, a dash of lethal action, and his irresistible, eccentric spice.Joe La Brava is an ex-Secret S...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 28th 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1983)
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Dan Schwent
Former Secret Service agent Joe LaBrava meets an actress he fell in love with at age twelve. Now she's being blackmailed by a redneck and his Cuban partner. Or is she...? Can LaBrava get to the bottom of things before he winds up dead?

When it comes to Elmore Leonard books, they're either awesome or just okay. This one is definitely closer to okay.

The plot was pretty good. LaBrava, a photographer and former FBI man, gets entangled with Jean Shaw, an actress he's pined over for years and a blackma...more
I bought this today at the Out of the Closet thrift store on Biscayne, and once I got home and opened it up to read, discovered that it's an autographed copy! I'm irrationally thrilled by this. There's something so cool about finding out that even though I never managed to meet him, I now have a book with his signature in it. I actually don't know why that's cool and exciting to me, I guess because Leonard's one of those writers I would've liked to have met but obviously now I never will, and th...more
I have read 11 Elmore Leonard books so far and this one is the least favorite. It lacked almost everything that makes him a hailed writer of this kind of books. It wasnt enough well written hardcore story and it wasnt fun story with quirky characters like some of his other crime books. He is a rare master of great dialogue and believable shady,low life characters. Except LaBrava himself the other characters felt like a parody,vanilla versions of his other better books,characters.

This book show h...more
“A while ago somewhere
I don’t know when
I was watching a movie with a friend.
I fell in love with the actress.
She was playing a part that I could understand.”

-Neil Young, “A Man Needs a Maid”

It took a chapter or two, after we’re finally introduced to Jean Shaw and what she means to secret service agent come photographer Joe LaBrava, that Neil Young’s song “A Man Needs a Maid” came to mind. I’m sure we all have that actress, or actor, who we’ve seen and who in our youth we maybe fell a little...more
Corey Lynn Fayman
Elmore Leonard, he mixes it up you know, you don’t see what’s coming. And there’s always one guy, you see, he’s smarter than the rest of the dumb asses in the room, guys who think they’re cool ‘cause they went hunting one time, shot a wild boar that was coming straight at ‘em, they just stood their ground and stuck that head shot. Oh yeah, they spent a couple years in the pen. That’s where they learned what life was really about. But this one guy, he’s seen it all, he knows how to keep an eye ou...more
If you’re familiar with the noir genre, nothing about La Brava will surprise you. Yet, the ride is still worth it. If one can imagine a Raymond Chandler novel where everything about the scam, the job, the set-up goes wrong but where there is a nasty turn to that wrongness, one can imagine La Brava. The joy is in the cast of characters. These would make good characters in a video game because they are stereotypes with a twist.

The protagonist is Joe LaBrava. Joe is a former Secret Service agent wh...more
I found myself thinking of this book as "early Leonard," which really isn't true--sure, it predates a lot of the stuff by him that I've liked best (Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Out Of Sight) but not by that much. And more importantly, by the time he published La Brava, Leonard had been publishing novels for 30 years. Last Stand At Sabre River, a western novel of Leonard's that I read a few years ago, fits the "early" descriptor much better. And yet, with this book missing much of the dry wit that I go...more
Not that Leonard needs a plug. But while Glitz was his first best-seller, I always preferred LaBrava. The title character is a former secret service agent turned pro artsy photographer. He suffers regrets over the only time he had to kill someone. Soon he runs afoul of a crazy ex-cop the force is well rid of. Next his mentor/friend and a sultry ex-starlet are threatened in an extortion scheme. LaBrava is happy to help, but soon notices that some aspects of the case resemble plot elements from th...more
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never read Elmore Leonard's work before, even though I observed my father, husband and brothers enjoying his work over the past 25 years or more. For some reason I must have thought his books weren't for me. How wrong I was!

There are many good things about LABRAVA. The plot: noir with a twist, and one that leaves the reader wondering what will happen after the end of the book. The setting: South Beach before the Diet. The characters: complex doesn't begin to de...more
Jeremy Hornik
This is great stuff. It's late enough that Elmore Leonard had pretty much mastered that kind of loping, andante crime novel where nobody ever gets too excited and nobody ever lets anything go, either. And it's early enough that he still bothered to plot things out in advance, instead of just seeing where the characters went.

So why just three stars? Well, the hero is pretty much superman: an ex-Secret Service agent who now is a street portrait photographer beloved of Miami's high art galleries, b...more
Nobody does it like Elmore Leonard. Essentially, the Dickens of Detroit has written the same novel many times - but with immaculate style each time. You can't take out a word from Leonard's prose as his writing is delightfully dense and his characters speak in slightly hyper-real tones. He makes reading feel more like listening. This time it is about a past secret service agent and a fading film star. There are the usual Leonard psychopaths and the anti-climatic ending. On the way, the reader is...more
These were the questions and links I put together for my Coffee & Crime Mystery Book club:

1. Critics have said that LaBRAVA is Elmore Leonard's valentine to film noir. The book talks a lot about the film noir classic films and performers, he has created a classic femme fatale for his leading lady, and he has chosen South Beach, the Art Deco neighborhood of Miami, as his location. The plot itself is obviously taken from classic film noir. Did you enjoy that aspect of it or did it distract y...more
Ruth Charchian
The movie rights to LaBrava was bought by Universal but never was made into a movie even though the book won the Edgar Award. LaBrava was one of his early and better novels. Typical of his other books, his central characters have dual behavior traits that show up in various plot twists: good and evil. He seems to especially enjoy writing and interacting with the villains in his stories. Villains are usually not just dumb but really dumb and they think and do dumb things that the hero always poin...more
Mystery writing isn't normally my genre, but Leonard creates clear characters that allow you to participate in the seedy life of 1983 South Beach, Florida. I liked how pre-digital photography allowed clues to surface (loved the "snick" that signaled an important picture being taken), and I liked the photographer's ability to bring out non-acting parts of the other characters' personalities.

I wasn't so fond about the aging femme fatale actress from 1940's mystery films, who seemed boring and pre...more
Elmore Leonard is not afraid to have powerful female characters (Karen Sisco and Jackie Burke immediately come to mind). While not having read all of Leonard's work, I believe that Burke from "Rum Punch" is the only female who is the main character in his work. I bring this up because while I enjoyed "LaBrava," I think what would have made this good novel great is if the spectacular Jean Shaw was the lead and not LaBrava. For some reason, I really wasn't too taken with LaBrava and his chivalry-f...more
LaBrava is completely different than the one other Elmore Leonard book I’ve read, Djibouti, and more typical of what I expected from him. The title comes from the main character’s name, Joe LaBrava, a former Secret Service agent now living in Miami. Thanks to his friend Maurice, he meets his first childhood love, screen actress Jean Shaw. Unfortunately, this also introduces him to Richard Nobles, a thug who seems to have his eyes set on Jean. LaBrava sets out to save Shaw and quickly finds himse...more
Coni Warren
This was my first Elmore Leonard book, even though I don’t know what took me so long since I really enjoyed Out of Sight, Karen Sisco, and Justified. I liked how those characters were really good at one or two things, but also had some faults that usually led them into some kind of trouble. It still gave you someone to root for, even when their mistakes were causing them much annoyance, pain, and most of the time, heartache.

LaBrava is a former secret service agent who is now a portrait and stree...more
another from leonard (1983)...the...9th i think, having just finished The Hunted: A Novel...a 4-star read easy peasy

this one begins:
"he's been taking pictures three years, look at the work," maurice said. "here, this guy. look at the pose, the expression. who's he remind you of?"
"he looks like a hustler," the woman said.
is a hustler, the guy's a pimp. but that's not what i'm talking about here. here, this one. exotic dancer backstage. remind you of anyone?"
"the girl?

onward, upward.

oh yeah....more
Two of Elmore Leonard's most notable talents are on display with "LaBrava." The areas I felt most demonstrated in this novel are Leonard's ability to develop rich and interesting characters and his talent for dialogue.

Ex-secret service agent and current photographer, Joe LaBrava gets involved with a friend who is a hotel owner. This friend is very fond of a former actress who lives at the hotel and moves in and out of reality and the world of alcoholism. She also imagines herself back in the rol...more
It wasn't Leonard at his absolute best, but it was very good. Even on a slow day he can put out a book that it hard to put down and has terrific characters all the way around. This book didn't age especially well, I guess.

It's hard for me to express exactly what bothered me about this book. It doesn't seem like there was any one thing, and there was a lot of good things. Excellent characterization (with characters that are fun to read about), the setting was clearly written and popped out, neat...more
Debby Allen
A very long slog to an almost expected end. 85% set up, 15% doing the deed and fall out. Maybe he needed to write this to practice for his slicker, more fun books (Get Shorty et al). But it didn't even have the windblown tumbleweed ambiance of his westerns to save it. Readable, so I guess it would normally be 3 stars, but just too meh to get there.
Elmore Leonard is easily the most entertaining crime writer ever (when he's not writing teriffic westerns like 3:10 to Yuma). I've lost count of all the books I've read of his. His dialogue is teriffic and tells you all you need to know about the characters. His characters are a combination of somewhat lovable, street wise, low lifes who constantly become their own worst enemy.
La Brava concerns a retired secret service agent who becomes a street photoghrapher and winds up getting involved with a...more
I read this book as an experiment. I have been reading more suspense and mystery stories, in part to see if I can tell a story that fits this genre. I like this book. It was surprising read. The plot headed one way and the twist was truly unexpected. The writing was good and story moved along quickly. It was different from my expectation. Using old movies and an older movie star matched some of my interests. The main characters were interesting but the two villains were stereotypical. I wouldn't...more
Earlier Leonard book set in Florida perhaps before Hiaasen had the shit on lock. While I was reading this book I found myself looking up to stare at the water (I was on the beach) with amazement at the dialogue. It's priceless stuff. . .

Leonard does not enter the realm of Ross MacDonald or John D. MacDonald (perhaps the Florida potboiler king) b/c the joints are not MOVING. They don't touch you. They are like a really good N.E.R.D. production (not a great one). . .you wonder things like, "How th...more
This book is completely fine. Not a bad book at all but honestly I probably could have gone my life without reading it with no regrets. Maybe I just can't quite connect with Miami in the 80s and an ex-Secret Service agent turned hotel manager-photographer who just so happens to get caught up with the aging actress of his childhood dreams? It's fun I suppose but I had little to no investment in LaBrava himself, who seems to be constantly one step ahead of the game, without any threat of actual da...more
Nov 11, 2007 Ivy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of noir mysteries
Quite good--this is the first Elmore Leonard I've read and he has an engaging writing style. The main character, Joe LaBrava, is cool, but even though he's a former Secret Service agent, Leonard writes him as a normal guy, cleanly sidestepping all the traps of Mary Sue-dom. The plot neatly revolves around the cliches of noir films and spider women. It's very meta, and very satisfying. (Though the cover by Chip Kidd is one of the most hideous things I've ever seen.)
Crisp, tight dialogue, good mystery and a wonderful feel for Miami Beach, which I have never visited.
Elmore Leonard's La Brava tells the story of Joe La Brava, an ex-Secret Service agent who gets involved with a former Hollywood star. Fast-moving with no extraneous language. Someone else pointed out that "no one gets hurt who doesn't deserve it", which somehow makes this story a rarity in modern mysteries.

Favorite scene: Joe La Brava's surprise interrogation of Cundo Rey, trusting him with a camera only to walk away with more information

What this story is about: A small-time con with big implic...more
Definitely not quite what I was expecting based on previous forays into Leonard's crime writing - a very different tone and feel from books like Out of Sight and Get Shorty. Overall, though, I think Leonard succeeds admirably at a more thoughtful and introspective mystery and proves he doesn't need to write South Florida goofball to be entertaining.
J.A. White
I've been on a crazy Elmore Leonard kick lately, and I thought this was one of his best. As usual you have a finely drawn cast of characters and prose that goes down as easy as chocolate ice cream (seriously, is there anyone more purely READABLE than Leonard?). Everything threads together into a totally satisfying ending. Cool note: Leonard provides an epilogue of sorts in PRONTO, another great book.
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m...more
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