Picks and Pans Review: The Piranhas
To those who never appreciated Robbins's work, his 20th novel will seem like—ho hum—the same old pulp.
But to readers for whom Robbins's early books—A Stone for Danny Fisher, The Carpetbaggers, The Betsy—were staples—the genteel pornography of their adolescence—The Piranhas will be as disappointing as a tasteless hamburger. The story is unbelievable (and very similar to Godfather III), the characters cardboard even for Robbins, the writing abominable. There's not even any good sex.
Jed Stevens—né di Stefano—is a mafioso's nephew. A business school grad, he wants nothing to do with his Uncle Rocco's line of work. But while it hardly takes an M.B.A. to see that a trip down the Amazon with Rocco's son Angelo will entail drug smuggling, Jed goes. When Angelo dies—after a swim in piranha-infested waters—Jed becomes Rocco's surrogate son, tied by honor to the family business.
The rest of the plot is a mess of warring Mafia families, extortion and murder. Robbins seems to be trying to show that the Peruvian Army, the Cosa Nostra and legitimate business are tied together, perhaps through one tantalizing Permvian hooker. Half the time you can't figure out who's who—or who's on which side. After a while, you don't care much one way or the other. (Simon & Schuster, $21.95)