Picks and Pans Review: The Havana Room

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

THRILLER

by Colin Harrison

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At night after the tourists have drifted away, New York City's elite gather beneath a steak house in a bar called the Havana Room to make deals. Bill Wyeth, a real estate lawyer who lost his job after he accidentally killed his son's pal, is so eager to join the club that he engineers a multimillion-dollar deal for a guy he barely knows. Every club has dues, though, and Wyeth soon finds himself on Long Island at 3 a.m. staring at a frozen corpse. His troubles are just beginning.

A veteran of four previous Manhattan thrillers, Harrison populates this hard-boiled novel with characters fixated not just on riches but on exotic meals: a noir Bonfire of the Vanities meets Iron Chef. Kinky sex also plays a part. At one point an obese club owner forces Wyeth to watch him sport with a prostitute while he extorts money from the lawyer. Wyeth says wryly, "We were living in different movies, both terrifying." Terrifying, but hugely entertaining.

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