From Publishers Weekly
This rock-solid novel, number eight in Standiford's line of South Florida crime capers (Deal on Ice; Raw Deal; etc.) is as blunt and powerful as a punch to the head from series hero John Deal himself. Deal is rebuilding the failed Miami construction firm he inherited from his father, dead by suicide. Soon after moving to Key West to oversee a major construction contract, Deal is approached by Antonio Fuentes, a mysterious businessman, who attempts to hire him to oversee a huge rebuilding project in Havana, slated to begin once Castro has departed the scene. Deal has his suspicions, especially after Fuentes offers a check for a million dollars as a retainer. Next to make Deal an offer is Norbert Vines, special agent from the Department of Justice. Vine convinces Deal to go along with Fuentes and report back to the department on what the businessman and his shadowy partners are really up to in Cuba. A few hours later, Deal is on Fuentes's lavish yacht, headed into Cuban waters. Once there, everything goes to hell in short order as it turns out that (surprise!) Fuentes hasn't been entirely on the level. Unsure who is friend and who foe, Deal is blindsided by a bombshell plot twist that will have readers flipping wildly back to the front of the book to see how Standiford pulled it off. From here on in, the action is searing and nonstop, blazing ahead to a satisfyingly violent conclusion.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Standiford's John Deal series, starring the South Florida building contractor, derives much of its tension from a common genre theme: the call from the grave. Typically, the "call" prompts an investigation into a long-buried secret. With Deal, however, the phone just keeps ringing, and the caller is always his dad, the legendary builder Barton Deal, whose suicide exposed a lifetime of shady dealings with the Mob. John has been living with his father's tarnished reputation for years, struggling to rebuild the business Dad left in shambles. This time the call comes from Cuba, but the message is hidden, at least at first. Approached by a supposedly reputable businessman planning for the post-Castro era, Deal is tempted by prospects of an enormous contract to restore Havana's faded but still grand buildings. Agreeing to an "ex-officio" trip to Cuba to explore the possibilities, Deal learns quickly that he's been lured to the island for another reason, one that may involve his father. Standiford does a superb job of setting up his complex plot, using the color-drenched, ever-threatening Havana landscape both to ratchet up the tension and to emphasize the otherworldly nature of this latest and most baffling call from the grave. (See the Read-alikes column, opposite, for other examples of Cuban noir.) Among his fellow Floridian crime writers, Standiford is most similar to Randy Wayne White in his ability to combine straight-ahead adventure with subtle character development. The realistic wing of the Florida crime novel gets less attention than the comic (Leonard) and surreal (Hiaasen) branches, but it is every bit as deserving of our attention. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved