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Book review: Sex, money and adventure in DeMille's 'Cuban Affair'

Correspondent

‘The Cuban Affair” By Nelson DeMille. Simon & Schuster, 464 pages, $28

Best-selling thriller writer Nelson DeMille continues his high standards with a heady mix of politics — both U.S. and Cuban — culture, nonstop action and believable characters.

Best known for several stand-alone novels and his series about John Corey, DeMille launches a second series with his 20th novel, “The Cuban Affair.” DeMille’s new hero — Daniel “Mac” MacCormick — proves more than capable of leading his own series.

Mac firmly helms the action and intrigue that churns in “The Cuban Affair.” He’s a 35-year-old Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan who is now living in Key West as a charter boat captain. Mac attempts to resolve his war demons, his former life as a Wall Street broker and a promise he made to himself “to have an adventure.”

And, boy, does he have an adventure. Mac has found a kind of home in Key West, about as far as he can get from his home state of Maine. But he’s a little overwhelmed by the $250,000 he owes on his boat and he’s emotionally adrift.

It’s a perfect time for Mac to be coaxed into a covert trip to Cuba that offers him a huge paycheck. A group of anti-Castro Cuban-Americans hire Mac to bring back millions of dollars and some documents hidden in a Cuban cave. To say the job is risky is an understatement as it involves a convoluted network of plans, any of which could go wrong. The plan is further complicated by Mac’s growing attraction to Sara Ortega, a member of the group who accompanies him to Cuba and who may be manipulating his emotions. Sara’s investment in the mission is both political and personal — part of the loot was left by her grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution.

Set during 2015, “The Cuban Affair” works well as a look at our immediate past, exploring the easing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, especially in light of recent developments in Washington. Nelson deftly makes “The Cuban Thaw,” as more than one character describes it, an integral part of the plot, which shows suspicions on both sides.

Nelson imbues a strong sense of place in “The Cuban Affair,” from the streets of Key West — and drinking sessions in the Green Parrot -- to a vivid look at Cuba. Mac sees Cuba as “an alternative universe where the past and the present fought to become the future.” A heart-stopping chase on the high-seas punctuates the novel’s adventure aspects.

Escalating action perfectly accents a compelling plot and believable characters. As Mac quips in “The Cuban Affair,” “Sex, money, and adventure. Does it get any better than that?”

Meet the author

Nelson DeMille will discuss “The Cuban Affair” at 2 p.m. Sept. 28 in front of a studio audience for WXEL’s “Between the Covers” show at the studio, 3401 S. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach; email info@wxel.org or call the reservations hotline at 561-536-1687 to reserve a free spot; audience members must arrive by 1:45 p.m. The half-hour “Between the Covers” airs at 5:30 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. Saturdays on WXEL.

Nelson also will discuss “The Cuban Affair” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-442-4408.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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