Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following his hilarious first novel, Bone in the Throat, with another antic tale, Bourdain establishes himself as a new master of the wiseass crime comedy. Henri Denard, an ex-Vietnam War hero who was trained as an assassin by the CIA and is now cozy with the French government, is living a peacefully hedonistic life as a ponytailed hippie on St. Martin with his wife, Franceswho's smart, gorgeous and similarly handy with a gun. But Henry's past is coming back to haunt him: a year ago, 320-pound crossdressing mob boss Jimmy "Pazz" Calabrese hired him to knock off two rivals at a ski resort. Henry botched the job, allowing one of the mobsters, D'Andrea "Donnie Wicks" Balistieri, to survive. Now, not only has Donnie Wicks made a deal with the FBI to testify against Jimmy Pazz, but he's also ended up as Henry's neighbor on St. Martin. After weighing his options, Henry decides to confront Donnie directly. To gain access to the mobster, Henry and Frances befriend Donnie's friends and housesittersuptight failing restaurateur Mickey and his fun-loving girlfriend, Racheland end up hitting it off with Donnie, too. Meanwhile, the thug Jimmy's hired to hit Donnieand maybe Henry, toohas found true love with an Indian prostitute and isn't at all eager to complete the task. As Jimmy grows frustrated, the number of playersfederal marshals, French spies and a variety of small-time gangsterscontinues to mount, threatening mayhem and bloodshed. A potentially routine mob caper is brought to life by tight plotting, appealing characters and a stylish mix of irony, snappy dialogue and amoral verve. Author tour. (Sept.)
For his second course, Bourdain, novelist (Bone in the Throat, 1995) and chef (at Sullivan's, in Manhattan), dishes up a sorry, soggy mess of a stew in which a good-hearted hit man finds himself on the spot with both mob chieftains and law-enforcement agencies.
Hired by an ambitious cross-dressing mafioso named Pazz Calabrese to eliminate his two immediate superiors, Henry Denard dispatches one but only wounds the other, D'Andrea (Donnie Wicks) Balistierian aging capo di tutti capi in New York. After returning to Saint Martin, the idyllic West Indian haven he calls home, the hired gun (a decorated Vietnam vet who went on to work for the CIA) learns his wounded target has turned informant and will testify against former partners in crime. What's more, an accommodating interpretation of the Witness Protection Act allows Donnie Wicks (and a small army of US marshals) to take up residence on Saint Martin. Concerned that he and his hardcase wife Frances may have to find another place to live, Henry talks his way inside the former don's compound for a meet. Not to worry, the elderly outlaw has the nothing-personal aspect of gangdom's business down pat, and he soon takes a shine to the professional killer as well as to his lovely, lethal lady. In the meantime, the expatriate godfather's former underlings mount a deadly campaign to silence him. In the wake of a furious assault on his island home (which costs six feds and a like number of Dominican nationals their lives), Donnie Wicks (now under the protection of venal French officials) is reported dead. As a favor to the American authorities cheated of a show trial, Henry heads north to waste the kinky Calabrese and his top lieutenants with a light anti-tank weapon on a New Jersey construction site. At the close, he's drinking and living it up with Frances and Donnie Wicks at his Caribbean hideaway.
In the parlance of cuisine: tripe.