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The Havana Room

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  694 Ratings  ·  70 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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Glenn Russell
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing

“Colin Harrison is trying to do for New York what Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy have done for Los Angeles: map the sinister underbelly of the city, the nexus of greed and lust and ambition that metastasizes there and its dark spawn of larceny and murder.” So wrote Michiko Kakutani in her New York Times review back in 2004 when The Havana Room was first published. Ms. Kakutani went on to write about the book in glowing terms, not something she’s usually known for.

As a big Colin Harrison fan m
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book was not what I expected. But right from the start, because this noir mystery was set in New York City, with the machismo factor set to high, I knew Donald Trump would worm his way onto these pages. And there he appears on page 121, when author Harrison shoehorns him into the near present day ramblings of his "abbreviated history of Manhattan real estate":

"...the soaring, gaudily crenellated edifice of Donald Trump's ego;..."

The first chapter of this fine book knocked my socks off. It wa
Maya Lang
Jul 03, 2010 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 feel of a Manhattan noir) without being one-note, and I appreciated the philosophical echoes throughout. The result is a page-turner that's lyrical and moody: 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 observed through a narrator, with trips f ...more
Aug 27, 2008 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
Sep 09, 2012 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.
Dec 21, 2010 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
Jan 02, 2011 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 15, 2014 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.
Jim Coughenour
Aug 08, 2007 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.

Don Gorman
Dec 26, 2013 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.
Jun 02, 2008 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.
Alexandra Taylor
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, crime, favourites
This is the second book I read by Harrison (first was Manhattan Nocturne), and it did not disappoint. I do not the patience for crappy, choppy writing of many contemporary mystery writers, as well as their two-dimensional characters. This was a breath of fresh air for me. Harrison is a fantastic storyteller!!! I'm a big fan of his writing style.

Of course, this book has its flaws, too. We'll get into that in a bit.

The characters: Most of the characters in the novel were fleshed out and really wel
Feb 01, 2011 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
Mar 08, 2014 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
Mel Allred
Feb 07, 2009 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
Mar 02, 2008 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.
Jan 31, 2014 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 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.
As the book jacket says, the main character gets into a bind and what ensues is the story of how (or whether) he gets out of that bind.

Harrison has a marvelous gift of writing detailed scenes that put you into a place of action (including the "Havana Room" - a place of mystery to the reader for half the book)

An enjoyable read once you get past the collapse into misery of the main character in the first couple of chapters. Three stars only because the writing is only slightly above the level of L
Kristal Cooper
I have mixed feelings about this one. There were several unusual elements in the plot, which kept it from being predictable, but it was a stretch for me to believe that all of these events could happen to one person.

Readers who like a drama that unfolds over time should probably check into this book and/or author.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not the worst book I read but close. A couple of my favorite lines by this bland author: "It was a good a long kiss." and "sit in this very comfortable chair" (something like that). Can't you feel the imagery?
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
And a half
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great detail, narrative and plot

I'm beginning to love this author, his language and his storytelling. Fast read but not a fluffy or superficial story.
Boris Feldman
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dare I say it?
If you read only one novel this Summer, it should be this one.
There, I've said it.
Pop Bop
Dec 21, 2015 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
Jennifer Worrell
Apr 27, 2016 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 15, 2010 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
Dec 21, 2008 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
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Around the Year i...: The Havana Room, by Colin Harrison 1 11 Apr 13, 2017 04:13PM  
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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
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