Cuba has always fascinated me. This fascination may be due to my father being a Cuban immigrant or just because Cuba was the communist outpost in the western hemisphere during the Cold War. Whatever the reason, I have always found myself drawn to stories about Cuba. When I got a reading copy of “Havana Queen” by James Bruno, I knew that this was a book that I wanted to read. I finally got a chance to bump it to the top of my reading pile and it was well worth the wait.
The old guard of the Cuban government is trying to hold the country together under its control and is losing the battle. Faced with poverty and a lack of faith in the aging government officials, the people have started to turn against the government and their discontent is starting to lead to conflict. The government focuses its anger not within but at the U.S., which is believes is the source of the problems, and begins to take action against the enemy outside of its borders rather than deal with the issues within. The country’s network of spies and intelligence officers kicks into high gear as the Cuban government becomes more frantic.
Larisa Montilla has essentially taken control of the Cuban government and is desperately trying to hold things together. She has been able to reach the peak of power in the country and gain the respect of Fidel Castro due to her dedication and her ancestry. Nick Castillo is an FBI agent that lives up to his reputation as a rebel when he goes to Cuba on an unsanctioned trip and becomes embroiled in the middle of the revolution. When the tension reaches its boiling point and Cuba stands on the brink of change, Nick learns of a plot to assassinate the President of the U.S. Unable to get his warnings taken seriously, he must act fast to save not only the President but everything that he holds dear as well
Many modern thrillers are adventure stories cloaked in a thin veneer of reality but that is not the case in “Havana Queen.” All in all, this book is a page turner while still being a fairly dense and in depth look at the political tensions between the U.S. and Cuba while building a story of what could be that is based in reality. This book reminded me in some ways of Tom Clancy’s books (the ones that are actually written and not just developed by him) as I could read the book and lose myself in the story and yet it still seemed to me that this is something that I could easily see bein to develop on the news tomorrow. Besides being a more than capable writer, Bruno shows that he has a mastery of the subject that allows for more than just a simple tale of adventure and political intrigue.
“Havana Queen” is the best military thriller that I have read in a long time. I had thought that the genre had moved beyond intelligent, thought-provoking, and realistic thrillers that force the reader to make an investment in the story to catch all of its intricacies instead of just reading thrillers that are a lot like watching a movie in their entertainment and intellectual values. While I enjoy those books as well, I missed reading a book that really made me think about what was going on in the world as well as in the novel. Bruno obviously knows the subject matter and enjoys entertaining and educating at the same time. For fans of the genre, this book gets the highest possible recommendation.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and Bittersweet House Press for this reading copy. “Havana Queen” is available now.