Review of Gone Bamboo by Anthony Bourdain

Year published: 1997
Genre: Crime, thriller, comic
Setting & time: (mostly) the Caribbean island of Saint Martin; 1990s.

The Story:
Between hits, laid-back professional assassin Henry lives an idyllic life on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin with his wife Frances, but things get complicated when an assignment goes wrong and one of the intended victims survives.
The injured capo agrees to bear witness against his former Mafia associates and is moved to Saint Martin by the authorities to keep him out of harm's way. However, their idyll is about to be disturbed because the mafioso who ordered the hit has sent out people to track down the capo and Henry and kill them both.

Technique and rating:
This is a better put-together book than the previous thriller I read by Bourdain (Bone in the Throat) in that it focuses on fewer characters and there are no extraneous storylines here that interfere with the main story, making it more focused and streamlined. It is loosely connected with Bone in the Throat in that it shares some of the same characters, but the blurb manages to make it look like Tommy Pagano, the protagonist of Bone... is one of the lead characters in this one. He isn't.

While I am on the subject of the blurb: this has to be the most blatant example I have ever come across of a blurb written by someone who hasn't read the book. Not only does it make Tommy look like one of the lead characters, it also gets the name of Charlie the capo wrong and makes it look like he's a cross-dresser. The name confusion may be because it does look like his name was changed in the British edition, but there is no excuse for the other mistakes.

SPOILERS coming up:

This is less a gangster thriller than Bone..., although it does of course have a gangster element. There is humour here, but not as much of it, which is a pity, and none of the main characters are really sympathetic. But the storytelling is undeniably better, which evens things out. I am giving it 4 stars for that, and for having the balls to do something not many authors would dare to do, namely to kill off the book's most sympathetic characters.


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