Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Read Lately: Killing Castro by Lawrence Block

  • The January 2009 release from Hard Case Crime was Killing Castro by Lawrence Block. This is the fourth book by him I have read and it is very different from the others. Originally published under a pseudonym he never used before or since, it is an odd little book that had me wondering straight till the end.

  • Killing Castro is the story of five men hired by Cuban dissidents to murder Fidel Castro. Instead of a single mission, the group splits into three and make their way to Cuba. As we follow these separate tracks through the book, we learn about where these men came from and how they ended up as assassins. Since the novel is the standard pulp length (in this case, 204 pages), we do not delve all that deeply into their pasts. We also don't get much build up as each thread only gets a few scenes to build toward the climax. And those scenes only take up half the book!

  • The other half of the novel, and likely its saving grace, is taken up by a history of Fidel Castro's rise to power as a revolutionary figure. It begins by describing his seeming noble intentions and leads to his eventual despotism. While it would not serve as a biography of the man, these chapters help ground us and help explain why we should be cheering for five potential killers.

  • By the end, I could see this was not a novel about action or violence, but a tale of the extremes to which people will go. Unfortunately, the turns of conscience and emotional revelations don't have much room to grow in this short book. There is so much going on, though, that it is hard to argue about the depth of the novel when there is so much variety between the plot lines.

  • Lawrence Block is still an author I enjoy following even if Killing Castro was not a masterpiece. It was fun and light and I enjoyed reading it.

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