Steven Kent's Reviews > Killing Castro

Killing Castro by Lee Duncan
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Jan 04, 2011

liked it

I was going to make a joke about this book not being a representative chip off the old (Lawrence) "Block," but I have changed my mind. As I am in a mind for mangled platitudes, I will say instead that the book did not fall far from the tree, and then it slid down the hill, fell into the stream, got washed into the river which carried it out to sea and it finally ended up in Havana.

Lawrence Block is a great crime writer. He creates well crafted characters, has a fabulous sense of humor (at least in his Bernie Rhodenbarr books), and weaves great tales that conclude with satisfying endings. None of that was apparent in this book, however.

Killing Castro begins with a somewhat Elmore Leonard-like beginning--not a bad thing by any means--in which we are introduced to not one, but five Americans heading to Cuba in a bid to assassinate Fidel Castro. Two of the Americans are big bruisers. Two are small guys you would never expect. One is a professional killer.

I was a third of the way through the book before I realized we were following all five guys, seeing the story unfold through each man's eyes and not following a single storyline. That would not have been bad had I understood from the beginning.

The characters were interesting enough. You had the hitman who falls in love with a Cuban girl, the bank teller who's dying of cancer, the hot-head on the run for a murder, the thug with no morals, and the student avenging a death in the family. These characters felt more like a supporting cast in need of a typically strong Lawrence Block protagonist, but that protagonist never showed. Neither did Mr. Block's great sense of humor.

And the ending? Well, this book ends (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!> in a The Lady or the Tiger sort of way. Sometimes non-endings work. This one most certainly did not work for me.

Between the confusion in the beginning and the disappointment at the end, I often found myself entertained.

I'm still giving this book three stars. It still has Lawrence Block's fingerprints all over it. It has his DNA. Let me tell you, any book with Lawrence Block's DNA in it is not going to be all bad.
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