Les Standiford, Author . Putnam $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-15059-3

This rock-solid novel, number eight in Standiford's line of South Florida crime capers (Deal on Ice; Raw Deal; etc.) is as blunt and powerful as a punch to the head from series hero John Deal himself. Deal is rebuilding the failed Miami construction firm he inherited from his father, dead by suicide. Soon after moving to Key West to oversee a major construction contract, Deal is approached by Antonio Fuentes, a mysterious businessman, who attempts to hire him to oversee a huge rebuilding project in Havana, slated to begin once Castro has departed the scene. Deal has his suspicions, especially after Fuentes offers a check for a million dollars as a retainer. Next to make Deal an offer is Norbert Vines, special agent from the Department of Justice. Vine convinces Deal to go along with Fuentes and report back to the department on what the businessman and his shadowy partners are really up to in Cuba. A few hours later, Deal is on Fuentes's lavish yacht, headed into Cuban waters. Once there, everything goes to hell in short order as it turns out that (surprise!) Fuentes hasn't been entirely on the level. Unsure who is friend and who foe, Deal is blindsided by a bombshell plot twist that will have readers flipping wildly back to the front of the book to see how Standiford pulled it off. From here on in, the action is searing and nonstop, blazing ahead to a satisfyingly violent conclusion. (May 9)

Forecast:The murky jacket does the book no favors, but this is above-average Standiford and should keep fans coming back for more.

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-7862-5565-8
Paperback - 253 pages - 978-1-59058-344-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 272 pages - 978-0-425-19717-2
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-61595-308-0
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