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.
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 WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved