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The Havana Room Hardcover – January 15, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (January 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 2286000042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374299866
  • ASIN: 0374299862
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,689,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harrison's status as the noir poet of New York crime fiction (Afterburn; Manhattan Nocturne) will surely be enhanced by his latest thriller-featuring, among other pleasures, the graphic description of several new and unusual ways to die. What goes on in the by-invitation-only Havana Room of a midtown steakhouse is certainly bizarre-but no odder than what happens in a Long Island potato field when a Chilean wine maker decides to expand his empire. Caught in the middle are two most unlikely heroes: Bill Wyeth, a real estate lawyer whose career and marriage are destroyed by a terrible accident involving a child, and Jay Rainey, a hulking, strangely sympathetic con artist. Linking these two is a touching and complicated woman, Allison Sparks, who manages the steakhouse but longs for more. "She seemed full of humor and fury and sexual need. She arranged people, fixed problems, came to decisions." Although Wyeth and Rainey drive the action, it's Sparks who sets the moral tone of the book. Meanwhile, the lush, alluring steakhouse and its public and private pleasures are the perfect metaphor for a postapocalyptic New York. "It did not matter if you polluted your lungs or liver or gut with the good stuff being served, because a man or a woman's life was itself just a short meal at the table, so to speak, and one had an obligation to live well and live now, to dine heartily by the logic of the flesh." Despite occasional digressions into arcane real estate law and Chinese cuisine, Harrison's storytelling hums and his prose shimmers all the way through this fascinating adventure.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Harrison won legions of fans with his previous novels Afterburn (2000) and Manhattan Nocturne (1997), and his new novel promises not to disappoint. The suspenseful plot, film noir atmosphere, and unique details like hallucinogenic sushi will keep readers actively engaged. What's more, in Bill Wyeth, Harrison has created a character with a lot to lose--his family, career, and sanity, for starters--and his plight provides an emotional backdrop to the chases and killings. A few naysayers found that the thrill wore off, that Harrison displayed a tendency to overwrite, and that he sometimes stretched the limits of plausibility. For the most part, however, critics were drawn into both the internal and external drama of Wyeth's life, and cheered him on his search for redemption.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. H OAKLEY on March 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you look at the reviews for this book, you will conclude that it must either be a masterpiece or a waste of paper. It is neither. Harrison has a lot of interesting ideas but does not, in my opinion, totally pull them off. The book is narrated by Bill Wyeth, whose rapid descent from a successful New York real estate lawyer to near bum is covered if the first chapter. Through a terrible mistake, for which he is not responsible, a child dies, and his powerful father uses his power to ruin Wyeth. In quick succession, he loses his job, his wife, and access to his son.
When he has reached the bottom, he wanders into a steak restaurant that seems to be an island of sanity in a world that has turned on him. He develops a crush on the woman who runs the restaurant, Allison Sparks. There is a mysterious room which is invitation-only that fascinates him but to which he cannot gain access. Then one night he is asked by Allison to help her boyfriend, Jay Rainey, close a real estate deal. He does, reluctantly, and as a result, (1) finds himself doing things that, while not clearly criminal, could be and (2) starts being threatened by a series of thugs for reasons he cannot understand. All of this leads him to uncover Jay Rainey's secrets as a way of saving himself.
The obvious influence on this book is the Great Gatsby. Rainey shares a first name (Jay) with Gatsby, an obsession with trying to reclaim the past, and a possibly criminal background. Indeed, Wyeth comes on a list of activities made by Rainey of what to do each day that is almost identical to a list made by Gatsby, although for different purposes. Of course, nothing is what it seems a first or even second glance.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Is there a better novelist crafting well-written, utterly engaging stories about Manhattan than Colin Harrison? I doubt it. He locks you in from page one, dazzles you with superb writing, and fills the pages with daring plot twists. This is a story about a lawyer, who after an accidental mishap, loses his wife, child, career and dignity until he happens to stumble into a midtown steakhouse with a mysterious private room guessed it. This is really a book about losing a child (either through death or divorce), but we're clearly not in Oprah-ville. Some things strain credibility (like how does an unemployed lawyer down on his luck afford lunch and dinner EVERY DAY in a steakhouse?) and the plot gets a little too tricky at times, but it's easy to ignore these faults because of Harrison's huge writing talent which breathes life into his characters and Manhattan. I, for one, couldn't put it down. I wish he would write faster...I can't wait for his next book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Harrison on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For the first third of this book I thought I had found one of those magical times when I read slowly to savor the writing and the mood. The characters were mysterious and I could not wait see the unraveling. Unfortunately, things turned very ordinary, even pitiful. Stock character and stereotypes began to act in predictable ways. Ultimately so disappointing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Aaron E. Black on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book after reading Afterburn, which was stellar. Harrison constructs atypical, unpredictable plot movements with a very literate style. Good character development, nice prose, and unexpected twists and plot development. Havana Room is a ridiculous, implausible, poorly executed story. Worst of all, Harrison relies on the very sloppy, lazy literary technique of keeping the reader in the dark about essential elements of the plot until it is revealed all at once by a single character (read: the author) explaining it all in one fell swoop with a big long monologue. I have written better material than this myself and I am in no way a writer in Harrison's league. I don't know if he had to produce this piece of drivel to pay his taxes or fulfill a book contract but I say with confidence that he is a fine writer as evidenced by Afterburn and the outstanding review that I just read of his newest novel, released in April of 2008. Afterburn and I will check out the new one but a waste of time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jose Jones on May 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Havana Room" features what I like to call an anonymous man -- successful, but not famously so; married to a wife who is pretty but not quite beautiful; rich but not a millionaire -- whose anonymity is shattered because of a tragic accident that leads to the death of his friend's son.

The death of this young boy causes his family's life to spiral downward, and he loses his job, his wife, his son, and his comfortable little existence. He escapes into a depressed funk.

Randomly, he enters a steakhouse one day. It is here where our story starts to spin.

Though he no longer practices law, the man, Bill Wyeth, is roped into helping with a real-estate deal. After the deal is made, Bill finds himself drawn to the man he helped, Jay Rainey, and ends up aiding him in a crime. The more Bill finds out about the deal, the more suspect it looks, and the more sinister Jay appears.

Colin Harrison is an absolute master at teasing his audience, sprinkling a little trail for them to follow, building suspense and anxiety to figure out the truth of the situation.

His prose is like bitter urban poetry. He completely exposes post-9/11 New York with sharp, accurate observations. Before Harrison gets to his story, he sits back and revels in his own prose ability, giving the city he lives in a light smack across the face.

Really the only flaw of this book is that, once Harrison points the way the story is actually going, it's obvious where it will end. It's hard not to be three or four steps ahead of our narrator, Bill. And the grand finale, which is played for awe and horror, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Honestly, I wish the two revelations -- about Jay and his farm -- had not quite been so obvious.
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