Monday, November 29, 2004


RED JUNGLE Kent Harrington. McMillan (, $30 (336p) ISBN 0-939767-50-3Set in Guatemala, Harrington's entertaining noir political thriller boasts a hero, Russell Cruz-Price, whose biography bears some not-so-coincidental parallels to the author's. While working in Central America as a financial journalist, Cruz-Price finds himself passionately involved with two women, an American working for a U.N. housing affiliate and the beautiful wife of Carlos Selva, the head of Guatemalan intelligence. He's also mixed up with a ruthless and ambitious Guatemalan strongman aiming to take over the country and a venal German archeologist, improbably named Gustav Mahler, who seeks a legendary immense jade jaguar. Flashbacks to 1988 and the dreadful final end of Cruz-Price's mother, a member of Guatemala's social elite, nicely serve to heighten suspense by interrupting and prolonging the present-day narrative. The author's occasional use of an omniscient point of view to leap forward in time to describe a character's ultimate fate helps to distinguish this tale from the typical Latin American coup saga. Despite his slightly enigmatic central figure and an underdeveloped supporting cast, the author (Dark Ride, etc.) does a nice job of painting a grim picture of the Third World and the corruption of the powerful. (Dec.)

This is a powerful novel. It's better than PW would have you to believe. Harrington's writing quickly draws you in and you become part of the story.


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