Here’s a novel about political assassination, and it’s a hoot from start to finish.
Mac McCorkle is not your average saloon-keeper. His partner Mike Padillo — his mother was Estonian, his father Spanish — speaks “six or seven languages” fluently and has used them in dangerous undercover assignments for a mysterious and unidentified American spy agency that is not the CIA. Mac relocated to Washington, DC, after their bar and restaurant in Bonn, West Germany, was burned to the ground in retaliation by the unnamed agency for one of Mike’s jobs gone awry. (Mike died on that job.) With the insurance money, Mac has opened a popular new bar and restaurant called Mac’s Place in Washington and, apparently, is making money hand over fist. Now, years later, Mike has miraculously shown up, alive and well — in trouble, as usual.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
It turns out that the trouble pursuing Mike is of the terminal kind: he is likely to be killed unless he carries out an assassination (or even if he does). The circumstances that have led up to this life-or-death challenge are marvelously complicated and embroil both Mike and Mac and an international cast of unforgettable characters in a romp at breakneck speed all across the capital, just minutes from death at every turn. The story is endlessly suspenseful and lots of fun — especially the dialogue, which is endlessly witty and frequently hilarious.
Cast a Yellow Shadow by Ross Thomas ★★★★★
Ross Thomas’ writing talent is apparent from the first paragraph of page 1: “The call came while I was trying to persuade a lameduck Congressman to settle his tab before he burned his American Express card.” I don’t know about you, but when I read an opening like that, I’m hooked.
Oh, by the way: the yellow shadow of the title is “what the Arabs say, I think. It means he carries a lot of luck around. All bad.”
Ross Thomas died twenty years ago, leaving behind a body of work that includes some of the best mystery novels of the modern era. Cast a Yellow Shadow was the third of the twenty novels Thomas wrote under his own name. (He wrote five mysteries under a pseudonym and two nonfiction books.) He twice won the Edgar Award for Best Novel.
For more great reading
I’ve listed and linked my reviews of all the Ross Thomas novels I’ve read here: Reviewing Ross Thomas – thrillers that stand the test of time.
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- The 15 best espionage novels
- Good nonfiction books about espionage
- The best spy novelists writing today
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