Picks and Pans Review: Bandits

updated 01/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Elmore Leonard

The title characters are a most unlikely trio: an ex-convict who works in a New Orleans funeral home, an ex-nun who hates the contras in Nicaragua, and an ex-cop. They join forces to stick up an unsavory contra colonel who is in the States both to raise money and to get revenge on a Nicaraguan girl he believes has exposed him to leprosy. There are grisly scenes in the mortuary when the ex-con recognizes a body as that of an old drinking buddy, and there are exotic details about lepers. But this novel's greatest achievement is its almost unbearable suspense. Can these three appealing characters bring off a multimillion-dollar heist? The author of Stick, Glitz and 20 other books has come up-with an original, lively plot that's right on the headlines. His novel is everything an overinflated book like James Clavell's Whirlwind is not. Leonard's writing is smooth and elegant. His characters are vivid, maybe unforgettable. Leonard has produced another winner. (Arbor House, $17.95)

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