Thursday, 22 October 2020

What I'm reading: Miami Vicious

Thomas Harris: CARI MORA

We’ve waited thirteen years for a follow-up to Hannibal Rising, and what Thomas Harris serves up is not another episode from the Lecter legend but a Florida crime vault caper. Disap-pointment clouded the first few chapters of this for me until I was sucked in by the sheer pace of the story. 

Cari Mora is the 25-year-old caretaker of a house on the Miami Beach waterfront, a property that belonged to the late Colombian drug king Pablo Escobar. Buried behind its crumbling sea wall is a safe containing $25 million in gold bars. One of Escobar’s successors sends a team to crack the electronically protected safe. Others are also after it. Colombia’s cartel war opens a new front.

The basic story here could be an episode of Miami Vice, but Cari’s early life as a child soldier with Colombian guerrillas gives an extra dimension. One of the bad guys likes to mutilate women before disposing of them in an acid bath. This – and a man-eating crocodile under the house – bring gothic echoes of our favourite monster. A rival cannibal makes a brief appearance.

Mr Harris now writes a leaner, meaner prose (I didn’t like his random mixing of past and present tense), but there are frequent glimpses of the master’s old magic way with words. A storage facility smells of “sour shoes and old bedding ... the air of plans miscarried”. This is a ghoulish, garish read, pretty well unputdownable. That said, one vital ingredient has been left out.

Come back, Hannibal! We miss you.

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