Morrow, Feb 2001, 24.00, 295 pp.
In his forties, Havana high school teacher Elliot Steil is not a Marxist maniac. Perhaps it is his American father who abandoned Elliot and his now deceased mother over forty years ago or just his love for the relics of pre-Castro Cuba. His lack of demonstrated enthusiasm for Communism has cost him promotions he deserves over less qualified people.
Everything abruptly changes for Elliot when American Don Gastner visits him with a chance to escape to Key West. Don insists he is an old war buddy of Elliot's father who now feels guilty for forsaking his family. Although under suspicion because of Don's visit and his lineage, Elliot agrees to flee. Instead of taking him to America, Don leaves Elliot to die in the waters off Florida. Somehow surviving the ordeal, Elliot begins his own investigation into why someone went to so much trouble to have him killed.
OUTCAST is an exciting look at the dichotomy facing Cuban-Americans and Cubans still living on the island. Elliot is a superb lead character who has one foot on Cuba and one foot on Florida as he arches over one of the longest 90 miles in the world. The early members of the support cast such as his Cuban neighbors, Don, and the flashbacks to his parents and life just before the Revolution are great depictions, but the villains seem weak in comparison. Though some awkward translation (book was originally written in Spanish) leads to ineffective language usage, readers will fully relish a powerful look at the Cuban scenario within a well-written amateur sleuth tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner