The Castro Gene
Review: Former White House director of economic policy Todd Buchholz tries his hand at mainstream fiction in The Castro Gene, a financial thriller that, despite the fantastic and at times familiar plot, succeeds in being highly entertaining.
Luke Braden is an ex-boxer who is tapped by billionaire Paul Tremont to help him achieve some undefined objective. Lured by a huge salary, a lavish apartment, and limitless expense account, Luke agrees and is put through a number of "tests" to confirm not only his financial acumen but his willingness to do whatever Tremont wants, no matter how odd the request may be. That Luke passes these tests is never in doubt; Tremont needs Luke and there's no alternate candidate for the job. After Tremont accidentally kills a woman and tries to cover it up, Luke realizes he's in over his head and uses his own connections to get back at the man who's been manipulating his life.
Buchholz borrows heavily from any number of books and movies in constructing The Castro Gene. The familiarity of these storylines to the reader actually works to the author's advantage: just when the plot seems to be moving in a certain direction, it abruptly changes. This isn't a suspense novel in that what Tremont sees in Luke is, for all practical purposes, given by the book's title. And early on Tremont reveals what his ultimate goal is. But how Tremont intends to use that information and act on it is a bit of a mystery, even after it's revealed. It's not unlike the university professor who fills a blackboard with formulas and then, to bring it all together, writes "and then a miracle occurs". If Tremont can leverage his capital 20 to 1 or even 100 to 1, the entire GNP of Cuba would be a rounding error in his financial empire. Why would he care? Is it all about getting even?
Tremont is a grand, richly drawn character, and Buchholz gives him some wonderful lines. Consider this statement from Tremont to Luke: "God is a mover and shaker, right? But he's omniscient too. Can you imagine his P&L if he were speculating in the commodity markets?" Buchholz is less successful with Luke, who's never quite believable as a boxer who kills, albeit unintentionally, an opponent in the ring. Given the way he's portrayed, having him be a baseball player who accidentally lines a drive killing the opposing pitcher would have been much better choice.
The Castro Gene is a terrific book to while away that lazy afternoon. And there's an unexpected bonus: yet another theory, as credible as any other, on who really assassinated John F. Kennedy.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of The Castro Gene for this review.
Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Castro Gene: New York City, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Nevada, Cuba
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The Castro Gene by Todd Buchholz
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 2007
List Price: $24.95