Bibliophile reviews Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain

Here’s another review I wrote shortly after I read the book (in 2007), and then forgot to post. Discovering it has reminded me that I still have the sequel left to read.

Year published: 1995
Genre: Crime, thriller, comic
Setting & time: New York, USA; 1990s

The Story:
The book tells the story through the eyes of several characters, but the protagonist is Tommy Pagano, a young sous-chef at a restaurant he doesn’t know is a front for the FBI who are using it to trap some loan-mongering crooks, one of whom is Tommy’s uncle. Other characters include the tragic figure of the drug-addicted chef, the restaurant boss who is trying to keep both the FBI and the mafia happy so he can keep running his restaurant as long as possible, and a couple of FBI men who are trying to do their jobs. Tommy’s world begins to crumble around him when he witnesses a gruesome crime but can’t report it because it would lead to his own death. The chef gets into trouble over his addiction and tries to quit, and the uncle does his best to try to get Tommy to work for the mafia.

Technique and plot:
This is an entertaining story, no doubt about that, but there is too much going on. The chef’s problems, although they matter for the main story, are covered in too much detail and the story swarms with too many characters. Several incidences unrelated to the main plot are included, possibly because the author wanted to tell some good stories (and they are good stories, just extraneous to the plot), but eventually they drag the story down instead of adding to it.

The good points are mouth-watering descriptions of food, stomach-churning but entertaining kitchen antics, very funny tough-guy dialogue and humour as black as the night.

Rating: A slightly overcooked but very entertaining crime thriller replete with gallows-humour. 3 stars.


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