Friday, June 28, 2013

Havana Lost

As the Fidel Castro era slowly draws to a close, it is a bit difficult to picture (much less actually remember) the U.S. influenced decadence of pre-Castro Cuba. The country, Havana in particular, was so shamelessly exploited by U.S. businesses and criminal interests during those years that it is little wonder that Castro booted all of them from the country as soon as he could.

Libby Fischer Hellman's new historical thriller Havana Lost, via the fictional Pacelli family, vividly recreates both pre-and-post-Castro Cuba for the reader.  As the book opens, time is running out for the mobsters running Havana's plush casinos, and some of the bosses are beginning to hedge their bets by publicly supporting Batista, the country's dictator, while privately shipping arms to Castro's rebels.  Well, good luck with that. 

Francesca Pacelli's days in Havana are numbered.  Sensing the imminent fall of the Cuban government, her mobster father is sending her back to Chicago in order to keep her safe from harm - and kidnappers.  And now, at the worst possible moment, Frankie falls passionately in love with a young Cuban she barely knows, a man who just happens to be a pro-Castro rebel.  Unfortunately for both, after her father forcibly removes her from the country, Frankie never sees her lover again.

Libby Fischer Hellman
But, as Frankie will learn decades later, Cuba is not done with the Pacelli family just yet.  Lured back into the country by the possibility of immense wealth to be had for the taking, the family will pay for its sins - past and present.  Havana Lost tells the story of three generations of a family trying to balance greed and family loyalty, but in the process, spectacularly failing at both. It is a tale of innocence lost and innocence abused, all in the name of easy money.

Thoroughly researched by its author, Havana Lost has all the makings of a first rate historical thriller. It is a genuine page-turner that allows the reader to experience Cuba-past and Cuba-present through the eyes of ordinary people forced to endure both eras.  That level of authenticity is not a surprise in a Libby Hellman novel, however (see A Bitter Veil).  In my estimation, what makes Havana Lost special is the author's willingness to take chances with so many of the characters central to her story.  Havana Lost is filled with surprises I wish I could tell you about - but then they wouldn't be surprises, would they?  Thriller fans, you need to read this one.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. Hmmm...thrills and history, sounds tempting.

  2. I like the sound of this one, and I have a great curiosity about this island so near to us and yet, so removed and isolated from us.