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Pagan Babies

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  3,302 ratings  ·  231 reviews
Pagan Babies is classic crime fiction from the master of suspense, New York Times bestselling author Elmore Leonard. 

Father Terry Dunn thought he'd seen everything on the mean streets of Detroit, but that was before he went on a little retreat to Rwanda to evade a tax-fraud indictment. Now the whiskey-drinking, Nine Inch Nails T-shirt-wearing padre is back trying to hustle
Mass Market Paperback, 334 pages
Published January 2002 by HarperTorch (first published 2000)
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Proseedcake Hi! "Pagan" is a word used by Christians to mean people of other religions. The feeling of the word is a little bit like an insult, but in the book…moreHi! "Pagan" is a word used by Christians to mean people of other religions. The feeling of the word is a little bit like an insult, but in the book it's mentioned because of a Christian church collecting money for charity to help "the pagan babies". So the title of this book is about the contradictory attitude some Christian people can have, where they're trying to help other people, but looking down on those people a little bit at the same time. Hope this helps!(less)

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3.52  · 
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 ·  3,302 ratings  ·  231 reviews

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Joe Valdez
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-crime
If your idea of a literary feast is something in the way of a delicious crime thriller published in 2000 and prepared with characters that are just ripe, tasty dialogue, sharp wit, strong verve, evocative setting all cooked at just the right temperature and time, stop reading now and treat yourself to a steak well done titled Pagan Babies, the 36th and best Elmore Leonard novel of the nine that I've read so far. Part of the story's immense satisfaction was not knowing what corner it would turn n ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First things first, what a terrific read this is and it comes with everything that I have come to expect from the wit and ingenuity of Elmore Leonard.
Dark, dry humour, sword fencing with dialogue and never knowing what’s around the corner and that’s just for starters.
The story starts in Rwanda in 1996 at the height of the Tutsi genocide. Father Terry Dunn is giving mass when a bunch of Hutu young men charge in and slaughters his entire congregation. After handing out some very personal retribut
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘Pagan Babies’ is a fair entertainment about cons tricking other cons, and everybody is thinking they are two steps ahead of the others. Meanwhile, one guy who is dressing up like a priest is dealing himself into the mix. Is he a con or not?

Terry Dunn was avoiding an arrest in Detroit. He drove a truck full of cigarettes for friends, but the friends were selling the cigarettes illegally. Did Terry know, or is it like he said, he simply drove the truck? In any case, Terry moved to Rwanda with the
If I said there was something so sweet about Bandits, so tenderhearted, well, this one’s of the same heart. A Rwandan genocide; a con man in Detroit. There’s just something about reading Elmore that puts me in mind of, bear with me, Somerset Maugham. Specifically, this one line Maugham wrote. About God, which is really about human nature, about how of all the things we’ll credit to him it’s not common-sense or tolerance. “If he knew as much about human nature as I do,” Maugham wrote, “he’d know ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast-paced crime novel involving a missionary priest, a female ex-con, a Detroit mob boss, a hit man, and a scheme to score $250,000. Great characters and dialogue. Worth reading.
Sam Sattler
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Elmore Leonard published novels for parts of seven decades (1953-2012) and more than twenty of his books were made into theatrical or television movies. Leonard began his career writing westerns but turned to crime fiction, the genre for which he is best known today, in the 1960s. By the time Pagan Babies was published in 2000, Leonard (who died in 2013 at age 87) had begun to slow his pace considerably but did later have great success with work that was turned into the television series Justifi ...more
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Elmore Leonard is known for his sparse writing style--many of the chapters are nearly all dialog. For crime fiction, that works. Especially with his strong characters. Yeah, some of them were stock characters--all the mob guys and dishonest lawyers in the book. But two of the main ones were pretty unique: Father Dunn, a priest, witness to the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, lost and unclear what he can do to help, who is also an ex con-man fleeing the law. And Debbie Dewey, who spent three years i ...more
Steve Kimmins
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
Love the way Elmore Leonard uses low life vernacular so easily in the mouths of his gangsters, almost creating the illusion you're listening to actors playing gangsters in films.
A different twist in this book involving scenes in Rwanda during the inter tribal massacres and his equating of gangsters and thugs in that situation to similar types in the US. Certainly a different landscape to many of his purely US based stories, though much of the book also has a US backdrop.
Easy writing style and un
Jan 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Oh yeah, that's right. Before I had a real job I read all the time. Typical Elmore Leonard. If you like his stuff, you'll like this. Nothing life changing here, just pure entertainment.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
It starts strong but it loses steam when it maintains its focus in the states. Making the entire book about Africa would risk dealing in stereotypes (more so) but I was a lot more interested in the lives o the Rwandans and the protagonist's life in Rwanda.
JS Found
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you're a priest, you can get away with murder. Or a big con. If you move back to the States to get away from the images of genocide in your head, meet an attractive ex-con who wants to do stand up, and play her scumbag ex and the mob for 250 grand. What's the harm? You're doing this for the Rwandan orphans, those brave kids who saw their parents get hacked to pieces. But, you're not really doing it for them. Or are you? And who is this girl you're with, who seems to totally get you and has co ...more
Mark R.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Elmore Leonard books are always, at the very least, fun reads. I don't know that I'd list any of them among my very favorite novels, but of the ten or so I've read, none were bad, and most quite good.

I knew nothing about "Pagan Babies" before getting into it, so the opening section came as a bit of a surprise: a priest hearing confessions in Rwanda shortly after the genocide of the early 1990s. But we leave the priest after a couple of chapters and head to Detroit, where the priest's brother wor
Joan Abrams
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Leonard fans
I love Elmore Leonard's unsavory characters who never get to steal much at all but take it all in good cheer. This is most interesting, being partly set in Rwanda where amoral Terry acts as a priest during the Civil War(and all the sensleless killings do bother him) but not quite enough that when he returns to American soil and meets a lovely girl scammer, he doesn't hatch a plan to raise money for those orphans and keep it for himself. It all works out to the reader's satisfaction.
Sydney Stories
3.5. Fun but not great. Took me only half a day to read tho!
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stand-up-reading
My second Elmore Leonard. Pagan Babies is better than Cuba Libre. Plot more plausible, better character development. Acceptable commuter reading.
Another good book by crime writer Elmore Leonard. ‘Pagan Babies’ is an entertaining short novel about cons tricking other cons, and everybody is thinking they are two steps ahead of the others. Nobody writes low-life street vernacular like Elmore Leonard.

Terry Dunn had to flee arrest in Detroit. He drove a truck full of cigarettes for friends, but the friends were selling the cigarettes without paying the taxes. Did Terry know, or is it like he said, he simply drove the truck? In any case, Terr
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another quirky story from the author of “Get Shorty” and “Last Stand at Saber River” (see my review). This one is a sort-of caper tale, involving Father Terry Dunn, who is a missionary in Rwanda (he was inspired to go there by his priest uncle), where he lives with his girlfriend, a local named Chantelle. Turns out he went to Rwanda to escape the IRS, but that’s a fun part of the story I won’t reveal. This is in a time not long after the genocide of a number of his parishioners in a small town, ...more
J.D.  Frailey
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: elmore-leonard
The book opens in a Rwandan village five years after the genocide in which tens of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu neighbors, many with feet and arms hiked off by machetes. Terry Dunn is a priest—or is he, really?—who witnesses the murders of 47 men, women, and children who had sought refuge in his church.
Authorities have still not allowed the bodies to be removed, they rotted and were scattered and eaten by dogs and scavengers where they lay, still inside the church, now s
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After a several blooper novels, Leonard’s found his groove and incorporated the longer novel form, with one solid plot.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elmore-leonard
Clearly the most entertaining of the Leonard titles I have read so far. Some of the characters were simply cardboard cut-outs of other criminals in other Leonard titles I read leading up to this one. Terry was a pretty good con man for his part in the story., but early on in the reading I felt that the story wasn't centered around him as much, which was a nice little surprise, because at the outset; the story would have had me believe it was about Debby Dewey looking to settle a score. I don't w ...more
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Elmore Leonard strikes again. The classic themes from Mr. Leonard prove to be a fun ride. Ah, the prison yard, how have I missed that piece from other more mudane stories and anything with mob guys has potential in my book. The author provides witty banter and a fast-moving storyline. Mr. Leonard farms the fertile field of dishonor among thieves. Of course, the touch of the author makes nothing else quite like it. Surprisingly, the story is immersed within an exploration of the genocide in Rowan ...more
Sally Felt
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
It's embarrassing to admit that upon hearing of Elmore Leonard's passing last month, I brought Pagan Babies home from the library. I'd admired his work indirectly, through film and TV adaptations, but somehow had never gotten around to reading him.

What good fun! Leonard's pacing is brilliant—the slow drawing together of characters becomes a crazy circling of the drain.

I knew to expect low-key humor and quirky characters, and Debbie Dewey the ex-con stand-up comic and "Father" Dunn the faux prie
Andrew Lasher
May 04, 2010 rated it liked it
While not as good as Get Shorty or Be Cool, this novel follows Leonard's typical style. Smooth talking bad guys who are kind of good guys meet fast talking good guys who are kind of bad guys and all hell breaks loose.

I could write about how this novel's lack of a clear hero shows how in the real world things aren't always black and white. I could talk about how the novel reflects society in its darkest and most gritty, but that would be nonsense. This is typical Elmore Leonard, and by that I mea
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ok, my first Elmore Leonard book. I found it at Salvation Army for $1, liked the title, and figured "Why the hell not?"

Kind of flew by pretty quick, this was one twisted tale, and I could not put it down. Brutal descriptions of genocidal violence in Rwanda may put off some readers, I would imagine, but what made me most uncomfortable (in a good way) about reading this book was the nature of the duplicitous fucks running rings around each other in this convoluted yet ultimately satisfying story.
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Elmore Leonard and crime/suspense fiction in general
Fascinating and hard to pin down. Elmore Leonard is a brilliant writer and this is one of his best to date; he pulls off some very difficult things and makes them look easy. He manages to write a funny story with a good part of the backdrop being the Rwandan genocide, which would have been awful in less gifted hands; he knows just when to switch from farcical to serious. He makes you care about characters you would never trust in real life, makes them complex and unpredictable without being unbe ...more
M Griffin
May 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Enjoyable enough, but this is a lesser Elmore Leonard novel. Interesting in that part of the focus in on Rwandan genocide, but most of the story takes place in Detroit, as usual for Leonard. It has all the rest of the standard elements -- criminals, scammers, lawyers, but no cops this time. A reasonably charming cast of characters, not that they're really the kind of people you'd want to hang around with. Leonard has done better than this (many times) but even a lesser book of his has more virtu ...more
Víctor Solís
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rwanda and Elmore Leonard, what do you think is going to happen?

This is not an exploitation story, but an intimate and quite heartfelt lone wolf tired warrior's journey from Rwanda to Detroit and back.

Crime, money, genocide,
repentance, acceptance, regressions
shoot a bag of dreams and run with them

A quick wit slick story
tune to the beat of the asphalt jungle
lean and mean when it needs to

You'll miss Father Terry Dunn+
when all is said and done.

Now, make a donation
and buy yourself Pagan Babies.
I read it now - in an unusual short time for me (3 days). But it is a short book and takes place during a time-span of only 14 days. The pace of the book was surprisingly slow, I thought that would be different being it a Leonard book.

After reading the first 20 pages I had to search the internet regarding the genocide in Rwanda, since I know so little about it. So thanks for bringing this bit of history to my attention.

The characters were cool, and some a bit crazy. The story was ok, but somehow
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fabulous story teller. We start out in Rawanda with the local priest having flashbacks to a massacre which happened a few years earlier in his church and end up in USA where the same priest is conning some of the mafia bosses into donating to his Pagan Baby charity.

Was not sure this is what I really wanted to read when I first started this story, but as it turned out it is a bit of a romp, a bit sexy (though not much) and a great con and of course a twist in the tale.

Highly recommended to those
Dick Harding
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. Had it on my shelf for many many years and finally read it. Makes me wonder how many other really good books are in the waiting. The characters in the book are wonderfully and realistically drawn. You can see any of them existing in real life and making the same bad decisions as I am prone to do from time to time. I highly recommend this.
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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
“The shots left a hard ringing sound within the closeness of the brick walls. Terry held the pistol at arm's length on a level with his eyes--the Russian Tokarev resembling an old-model Colt .45, big and heavy--and made the sign of the cross with it over the dead. He said, "Rest in peace, motherfuckers," turned, and walked out of the beer lady's house to wait at the side of the road.” 6 likes
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