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Book by Harrington, Kent
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*Starred Review* "He'd wanted to give up his self, the great monolith of his personality; he'd wanted to smash it, to pulverize it and walk away somehow different, or dead." Russell Cruz-Price achieves his goal and more in this utterly compelling blend of noir thriller and adventure novel. Shorn of that Indiana Jones can-do spirit, Harrington's story sends a dissolute journalist--think Fowler in The Quiet American--straight into the heart of darkness. Cruz-Price is marking time as a foreign correspondent in Guatemala--his mother, daughter of one of the country's coffee barons, was murdered there 30 years earlier--when two events change his life. He agrees to buy a coffee plantation, having been convinced by a fortune-hunting archaeologist that the mythical Red Jaguar, a giant Mayan sculpture made of jade, is buried on the grounds, and he falls hard for the wife of the head of Guatemala's secret service. Imagine if Fred C. Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre had had a femme fatale to deal with in addition to his greedy partners, and you'll have some idea how Cruz-Price gets "pulverized." But there is much more happening here than a hapless hero caught in a vice. Harrington draws us into Cruz-Price's passion completely--making us feel the irresistibility of both the woman and the jaguar--and he drenches us in the corruption of South American politics (the author's mother was a member of one of Guatemala's ruling families). The result is a thriller that twists its knife far deeper than most. An instant cult classic that just might vault into the mainstream. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Set in Guatemala, Harrington's entertaining noir political thriller boasts a hero, Russell Cruz-Price, whose biography bears some not-so-coincidental parallels to the author's. While working in Central America as a financial journalist, Cruz-Price finds himself passionately involved with two women, an American working for a U.N. housing affiliate and the beautiful wife of Carlos Selva, the head of Guatemalan intelligence. He's also mixed up with a ruthless and ambitious Guatemalan strongman aiming to take over the country and a venal German archeologist, improbably named Gustav Mahler, who seeks a legendary immense jade jaguar. Flashbacks to 1988 and the dreadful final end of Cruz-Price's mother, a member of Guatemala's social elite, nicely serve to heighten suspense by interrupting and prolonging the present-day narrative. The author's occasional use of an omniscient point of view to leap forward in time to describe a character's ultimate fate helps to distinguish this tale from the typical Latin American coup saga. Despite his slightly enigmatic central figure and an underdeveloped supporting cast, the author (Dark Ride, etc.)does a nice job of painting a grim picture of the Third World and the corruption of the powerful.
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