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May 22, 2010 / C.T. Henry

REVIEW: Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty

Fifty Grand opens with an exhilarating first chapter: An unknown person in a ski cap kidnaps a man at gun point, forces him to make a hole in the frozen lake, and then drops him into the freezing cold water below…

“I sit next to him and open the backpack.

I take out the Ziplock bag I found in his nightstand,  Inside there’s six rolls of hundreds, a key of scag, and enough crank to animate half the corpses in Colorado.  I suppose it’s some kind of emergency treasure.  About a hundred thousand in currency and convertibles.

I catch his eye and make sure he sees what I’m doing.  I place the heavy bag in the water in front of him and we watch it sink to the bottom of the lake.

Does that help you understand? This isn’t about money.”

Mercado, a Cuban-born woman, risks her life and the life of her family to cross into the United States and find her father’s killer.  Not only does this thriller provide great insight into life in Cuba as a female police officer, but the reader also experiences the United States from the perspective of an illegal immigrant.  It’s a powerful story, and McKinty’s writing is full of philosophical nuggets:

“I sat on the bed.  Good old Paco, still out for the count.  A million TV ads for sleep aids in this country.  You want a good night’s sleep? Work like a fucking Mexican.”

“What was it he told me Pindar said? The gods give us for every good thing two evil ones.  Men who are children take this badly but the manly ones bear it, turning the brightness outward.”

McKinty deftly paces Mercado’s travels, mixing flash-backs seamlessly in with her quest for revenge.  However, when she finally arrives in Fairview, Colorado, home to several movie stars, the incessant Hollywood shop-talk distracts from the plot.  While Fifty Grand made me appreciate a part of the world that I knew nothing about, the rest of the novel doesn’t ultimately live up to the promise of that incredibly well-written first chapter.

Verdict: GOOD BUT NOT GREAT (Translation: Recommended with some reservations)

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