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Havana Bay    by Martin Cruz Smith order for
Havana Bay
by Martin Cruz Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2001 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Those of us who love Martin Cruz's books will remember Arkady Renko from Gorky Park and subsequent novels. In this continuation of the series, Arkady flies to Havana from Moscow to answer a call for help from an old friend / colleague / Russian spy, Sergei Pribluda. Arkady arrives to the news that Sergei has been found floating in an inner tube in Havana Bay; dead of supposedly natural causes. Because of the deteriorated condition of the body, Arkady is not able to identify the corpse as Sergei. Instead of returning to Moscow, he extends his stay in Havana.

In mourning and a deep depression over the tragic death of his beloved wife, Arkady can see no reason to live and prepares to kill himself. An attempt on his life at the moment he has chosen for his death wakes the investigator in him. Despite his bleak perspective on life, he is drawn into a murder investigation involving intrigue, deception, police corruption, and an unlikely love affair with Cuban police officer Ofelia Osorio.

In describing the streets and people of Havana, Cruz seems to drop his reader right into the scenes he paints so well with his words. Background music, the mystique of Santeria, the populace's struggle to survive, and Arkady's unwilling absorption into the underworld of Communism all make this a book well worth reading. A fascinating tale of deception, intrigue, greed and downright nastiness unfolds as Arkady tries to unravel the mystery surrounding his old friend's death.

Havana Bay is a good read and up to Cruz's exacting standards. Be prepared to take it in in one long gulp as the author does not let up on the action and the reader will find it impossible to stop after only one chapter at a time.

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