Night of the Jaguar

 (STARRED REVIEW)

Gannon, Joe (Author)

Sep 2014. 320 p. Minotaur, hardcover, $25.99. (9781250048028). Minotaur,

This impressive novel can be recommended for its re-creation of late-1980s Nicaragua, when the U.S. was attempting to shore up the (right wing) contras in their fight against the incumbent (left-wing) Sandinistas.

The author introduces readers to the enriching company of Ajax Montoya, ex-drunk, ex-husband, ex-Sandinista, rewarded for his services with a post as homicide detective. It’s his struggle to solve a murder that leads him into the era’s poisonous politics and occasions his razzle-dazzle deductive displays. These carry the book, along with the beautiful, emotion-drenched prose. The portrayal of Americans as

“greedheads” and the noirish mood (almost everybody is scum) are certainly evocative, but the novel’s considerable power is in the author’s skill in making details sing. (“Her freckles seemed to climb up out of her shirt, track along her white neck, across her ears, and disappear into her scalp.”) That’s Amelia, and

her romance with Ajax—and its terrible dissolution—has a lyric power once thought beyond the range of the genre. A beauty.

— Don Crinklaw, BOOKLIST

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