Book: The Havana Room

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The Havana Room

Author: Colin Harrison
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Havana Room is the tale of a man from his fall from the heights of power and wealth in New York to the moment where he might well die.

Bill Wyeth is a successful real-estate attorney in his late thirties with a wife and son, who, by the merest chance, loses everything: family, job, status. Unmoored and alone, Wyeth drifts toward the city’s darker corners. Restoration seems unlikely, redemption impossible, when Wyeth finds himself in an old-time Manhattan steakhouse. He is intrigued by the manager, Allison Sparks—sexy, complicated, and independent in all ways. She also controls access to the restaurant’s private bar. This is the Havana Room, and what goes on in there, he’s told, is secret.

Wyeth agrees to help Alison’s friend, Jay Rainey, in concluding a last-minute midnight real-estate transaction. As soon as he sees the players and the paperwork, Wyeth knows something is wrong.

Within hours, Wyeth finds himself tangled in Rainey’s peculiar obsessions, which involve a Chilean businessman who feels he’s been swindled, an old farmer frozen dead to a bulldozer, an outrageous black owner of a downtown hiphop club, and a fourteen-year-old English girl. Only Rainey knows the connections among these people, which are revealed when Wyeth is finally admitted to the Havana Room—where the survival of its inhabitants is most uncertain.


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With his finely tuned noir sensibilities, Colin Harrison has shot to the top of the suspense field with gritty thrillers (Afterburn, Manhattan Nocturne) that speed along from one action-packed scene to the next.

When real estate lawyer Bill Wyeth accidentally poisons his son’s highly allergic playmate, the boy’s wealthy father sets out to cruelly destroy Wyeth’s perfect, upper-class life. After losing his job and family, Wyeth is shunned by Manhattan society and seeks solace in the mysterious private bar of a local steakhouse, where shady deals, bizarre shows, and other sinister operations transpire under the watchful eye of the beautiful proprietor, Allison Sparks. It is here that Wyeth enters the world of Jay Rainey, a charismatic con man who requires the services of a lawyer to pull off a real estate swindle. No sooner does Wyeth step up to the plate than corpses begin turning up on Rainey’s Long Island farm, and soon a pair of lunatic hip-hop thugs are out for Rainey’s and Wyeth’s blood.

Like previous novels by Harrison, The Havana Room explores the darkest recesses of the soul, stripping away every civilized veneer to expose what’s worst in human nature. Moving from one gripping crime to another, the elaborate plot takes a number of unexpected twists. Intriguing characters, surprising events, and an atmosphere of chilling intensity combine to create a tightly woven suspense novel that will leave readers gasping for breath. Tom Piccirilli

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