Colin Harrison, author of Afterburn and Manhattan Nocturne, is at it again in this provocative story about one man's despair and his desire to maintain normalcy. The Havana Room, a delicious mystery that will keep you guessing, is perhaps Harrison's most intriguing book yet.
The narrator is Bill Wyeth, a clever New York real estate attorney who finds his life upended after accidentally killing his son's friend in a freak peanut oil accident. Wyeth's life disintegrates before his eyes when he loses his job, his family and his sanity. Thrown into a pit of despair, Wyeth claws his way through Manhattan's darkness, hoping for happiness but finding nothing. That is, until he visits an antique steak house managed by an emotionally complex young woman named Allison Sparks. Day after day, he soaks in his misery, eating at table 17 and idolizing the woman he knows nothing about. But that changes when he finds himself in the notorious Havana Room, a section of the restaurant known for its history and secrecy. Sparks asks Wyeth to provide late-night legal advice to her friend, business Jay Rainey. Stuck in a cruel world of what-ifs and social ironies, Wyeth reluctantly helps out. But before he knows what hit him, Wyeth is knee-deep in Rainey's checkered past. Dodging Chilean businessmen and gun-toting goons, Wyeth removes himself from the situation before it costs him his life. The Havana Room is an obsessively detailed, tantalizing account of a man's devotion to his family and his eagerness to both find, and hide, the truth. Harrison's talent at creating quirky, well-structured characters is matched by his ability to interweave them into a plot riddled with fantastic twists and literary U-turns. All in all, The Havana Room is a gripping story about redemption and devotion that will have you rooting for the lonely underdog. Nicholas Addison Thomas is a writer in Fairfax, Virginia.