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The Havana Room [Hardcover]

Colin Harrison
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2004
The Havana Room is the tale of a man from his fall from the heights of power and wealth in New York to the moment where he might well die.

Bill Wyeth is a successful real-estate attorney in his late thirties with a wife and son, who, by the merest chance, loses everything: family, job, status. Unmoored and alone, Wyeth drifts toward the city's darker corners. Restoration seems unlikely, redemption impossible, when Wyeth finds himself in an old-time Manhattan steakhouse. He is intrigued by the manager, Allison Sparks--sexy, complicated, and independent in all ways. She also controls access to the restaurant's private bar. This is the Havana Room, and what goes on in there, he's told, is secret.

Wyeth agrees to help Alison's friend, Jay Rainey, in concluding a last-minute midnight real-estate transaction. As soon as he sees the players and the paperwork, Wyeth knows something is wrong.

Within hours, Wyeth finds himself tangled in Rainey's peculiar obsessions, which involve a Chilean businessman who feels he's been swindled, an old farmer frozen dead to a bulldozer, an outrageous black owner of a downtown hiphop club, and a fourteen-year-old English girl. Only Rainey knows the connections among these people, which are revealed when Wyeth is finally admitted to the Havana Room--where the survival of its inhabitants is most uncertain.

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Product Description

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 Booklist

Harrison's latest intelligent thriller does not offer quite as compelling a plot as his last one, the acclaimed Afterburn (1999); however, his businessman-turned-desperado characters are never less than riveting, bringing us an up-to-date bulletin straight from the heart of a battered New York City. Corporate lawyer Bill Wyeth is jettisoned from his pampered upper-middle-class lifestyle by a tragic accident. Arriving home unexpectedly, he gives his son's sleepy guest a glass of milk inadvertently laced with peanut sauce. The boy, severely allergic, goes into shock and dies. The boy's wealthy, grieving father engineers Bill's destruction, and he loses his job, home, and family. Desperate for some kind of structure, Bill becomes a regular at a long-established steakhouse, entering the orbit of beautiful and austere restaurant manager Allison Sparks. She gives him entree to the Havana Room, the scene of backroom deals and strange goings-on, and introduces him to Jay Rainey, a hugely charismatic and secretive businessman who draws Bill into a dangerous venture. Suddenly, both men are being stalked by hip-hop-loving thugs and a cultured but equally ruthless entrepreneur. The complex plot, however, merely seems like the framework for Harrison's ultra-modern morality tale about the costs of self-preservation and the deep pressures of being human. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex thriller July 14 2004
By A Customer
Great writer, I was intrigued from page 1. Lots of twists and turns. Complex plot, check it out.
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4.0 out of 5 stars God Noir Fiction July 13 2004
The Havana Room by Colin Harrison is a good example of what might be called Fiction Noir. The main character is one Bill Wyeth, formerly a big shot lawyer who has just everything including his family.
Depressed, Wyeth hangs out at a local steakhouse that features a bar-room called the "Havana Room." The strange and mysterious events that center around the Havana Room make for thrilling, suspenseful reading.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Ick April 26 2004
By A Customer
I'd give this book no stars if I could. I liked nothing about it -- all of the characters are unpleasant and poorly drawn. They don't act like real people or speak like real people, and the things that happen to them aren't things that would happen in real life. The "style" is off-putting as well. I mean, should you really notice that a book has a "style" when you're reading it? Usually, I don't like to speculate on the marketablity of a book (I like to think that writers aren't writing merely for market) but in this case that's the only way to put anything positive in this review. I imagine this book might appeal to a small segment of middle-aged male readers, but it's not bright, brave or new enough to appeal to younger, savvier readers and it's got nothing in it at all that would appeal to women.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, compelling read April 19 2004
By A Customer
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Not believable story April 13 2004
By A Customer
This book was easy to read. I read it in two days. But, I was not happy with the storyline. It was not believable. Too many things happened that would not happen in real life. The characters' emotional reactions to the events in the book did not seem appropriate. In other words, horrible things were happening and no one seemed outrageously scared or enraged. This is the book's major flaw.
The story was also a bit predictable. I kind of sensed where things were headed before I turned the pages. However, I kept reading it which indicates it was an okay book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great Start April 10 2004
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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3.0 out of 5 stars not all bad, just disappointing April 1 2004
By A Customer
when I picked up this book and read the first few chapters I was enchanted, the 1st few pages were so well written, they were almost perfection.After Wyeth's downfall though, the book just fell apart. the Havana room "secret" was ridiculous as was the wine property "secret" which bordered on improbability.
in spite of all this the book did keep me coming back for more, though at one point I was pretty mad at the author for destroying what could have been one of the best books of the decade.the first couple of chapters are so good though that I reccomend reading up until he has his first lunch at the Havana room, and then putting it down and imagining the rest of the story yourself.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A silly book masquerading as a mystery March 19 2004
This book, advertised as "noir" mystery/thriller has a shallow and highly improbable as well as very convoluted plot. It hinges on interactions between a depressed attorney, a sexy restaurant hostess, a sick client, a Chinese chef and some off-the-wall mobsters. While this mix may sound potentially attractive it is based on some ubelievable suppositions, lousy editing and even contains spelling errors ("hyperbolic for 'hyperbaric'). I kept waiting for some satisfactory ending but it never came, just a shoddy tying-together of too many variables that never reached a believable level. Save your money.
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