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12 November 2017

Nelson DeMille: The Cuban Affair

Is there really a Cuban thaw?
In his first new book for a couple of years Nelson DeMille introduces us to a new character, Daniel 'Mac' MacCormick, and a new country outside the US and the Middle East - the enigmatic Cuba.

Mac is living a good life running fishing charters off Key West, Florida but his finances are slim. He is approached by a Cuban-American Miami lawyer called Carlos with a staggering $2 million offer to run his boat into Havana and smuggle out a treasure of cash and documents hidden from the Castro government during the revolution. The cash was owned by the family of a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega.

The offer is too good to refuse, but the risks are enormous as despite the "Cuban Thaw" the country is still a police state where informing is part of normal life. Conditions for enemies of the state are hideous and if Mac or Sara are caught nobody can help them.

They join an American university group cultural tour of Cuba, totally organised and brainwashed by the Cuban authorities. They start to get to know one another and plan how to retrieve the treasure under the eyes of the ever-present secret police.

Mac has some similarities to DeMille's best character John Corey. He is glibly but not as sarcastically humorous as Corey, a ladies man, a rule breaker and a risk taker. That combination makes him a dangerous friend to have in Cuba, especially to a beautiful woman.

While this is a reasonable thriller it is nowhere near the best of DeMille's books. The best aspects were a detailed glimpse of Cuba today, an anachronistic poor communist regime living within a few miles of one of richest "democracies" in the world. DeMille paints a picture of a rotting paradise where the regime has little interest in a thaw that would take away their power.

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