Havana Twist: An Earl Swagger Novel

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9780743242523: Havana Twist: An Earl Swagger Novel
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Attorney Willa Jansson's mother has never balked at breaking the law, especially not for a good cause. So when Willa learns her mother has flouted federal regulations and gone off to Cuba, she figures it's just a harmless pilgrimage to lefty Graceland. But when her mother doesn't return with the rest of her peacenik tour group, Willa fears the feds might consider the trip "trading with the enemy" -- with a penalty of ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Worse, her mother's bleeding heart may finally have gotten her into more trouble than she can get herself out of.

In Lia Matera's Havana Twist, Willa risks her career and passport by rushing to Cuba to retrace her mother's steps. But she finds that nothing there is quite as it seems. Following clues to neighborhoods tourists never see, through secret tunnels beneath the street, and into the finest luxury hotels, Willa is manipulated, misled, and nearly arrested. And in the meantime, newfound reporter friends -- or are they CIA agents? -- disappear as suddenly and inexplicably as her mother did.

Soon the U.S. State Department, the Cuban Interior Ministry, and Willa's old flame, San Francisco Homicide Lieutenant Don Surgelato, get into the act. But politics and police work are a poor substitute for those things only a daughter would know. So, in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Willa follows her mother's trail from Havana to Mexico City, from California back to Havana...all the while keeping barely one step ahead of two angry governments and at least one ruthless killer.

Never before have the stakes been as high or as personal for Willa Jansson. The result is a pulse-pounding, white-knuckle ride of a mystery that shows Lia Matera at her very best.

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Review:

Too often, the tension in a mystery flows from the same source as in a horror movie: As the character walks alone toward the empty, sinister house at night (of course), the audience collectively wrings its hands and groans, "Don't go in there." One can't help but wish that she or he were endowed with a little more common sense. Carry a flashlight, call for backup--something, for God's sake.

Fortunately, Havana Twist offers an antidote to that cliche in Willa Jansson, a no-nonsense Santa Cruz lawyer whose good judgement is matched only by her wry sense of humor--though sometimes neither is enough to keep her out of trouble. And this time, it's her own mother who has put her there.

When Jansson's political-activist mom doesn't return from Cuba with her group of "Jewish mothers of politics, ready to chicken-soup the whole third world," Willa must travel to the Communist island in search of her "Superlefty" mother. Jansson keeps a low profile as she searches Havana's dilapidated neighborhoods, trusting few with the fact of her mother's disappearance--and with good reason. The city's ubiquitous hotel room bugs, vanishing informants, and tight-lipped locals create a shifty atmosphere in which the unspoken can be as revealing as the spoken.

While smartly pursuing her mother's whereabouts and trying to stay out of jail, Willa manages to find a little time for a romance of sorts, although she's not unaware of the irony in her attraction to the police detective who was once almost fired because of her mother's police protest.

Matera adeptly adds unforeseen twists and turns to the plot, though she leaves it up to the reader to ponder which clues are bona fide and which are dead-ends. Matera has a knack for characterization and dialogue, and her contrast between Cuba's bleak economy, Mexico City's gaudy commercialism, and the U.S.'s comparative wealth adds a little sociopolitical weight to the story. Smart, sensible Willa Jansson is a pleasure to accompany on her search for that grey-haired brigadista she calls Mom. --Kris Law

From the Back Cover:

Never before have the stakes been so high, or so personal, for "one of the most articulate and surely the wittiest of women sleuths at large in the genre" (The New York Times Book Review). As she investigates the mysterious disappearance of her own peacenik mother, Willa finds herself doing the HAVANA TWIST

Attorney Willa Jansson has finally managed to unload some of her sixties baggage, but her rebellious mother can't seem to mellow out. When Mom heads to Cuba with a band of graying "brigadistas" Willa figures it's just a pilgrimage to lefty Graceland. But then the rest of the group returns without her mother, and Willa fears the worst. Risking disbarment for "trading with the enemy" she rushes to the rescue -- and discovers that her mother may have finally gotten herself into more trouble then she can get herself out of.

In a deadly game of cat and mouse, Willa follows her mother's path from Havana to Mexico City, from California back to Havana, getting manipulated, misled, and nearly arrested along the way. Soon she finds two angry governments, at least one ruthless killer, and her old flame, homicide Lieutenant Surgelato, are hot on her trail. Racing against time, Willa realizes that, much more than politics and police work, it is intuition that will help her find her mother -- and those things that only a daughter knows.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780684834702: Havana Twist: A Willa Jansson Mystery

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0684834707 ISBN 13:  9780684834702
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1998
Hardcover

9781416501732: Havana Twist

POCKET..., 1998
Softcover

9780671004217: Havana Twist (Willa Jansson Mystery)

Pocket, 1999
Softcover

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