Cari Mora by Thomas Harris (2019)
Cari Mora is a former FARC guerrilla who has fled to the USA to find a better life. She’s a young woman, very determined, with dreams. Cari has a number of jobs, one of which is as caretaker of a mansion on the Miami beach waterfront. The massive house used to belong to drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, who is reputed to have stashed 25 million dollars’ worth of gold somewhere on the property. The FBI have searched and couldn’t find it, but others are now on the trail of this bloody fortune and Cari is about to get caught up in their greedy chase.
Hans-Peter Schneider is a very sick and depraved person now in search of the Escobar gold. His German name is misleading as he’s from South America, but there’s no mistaking his evil intent. Schneider likes to torture, rape and kill his female victims, and then watch as they dissolve in a machine he bought specially for the event. He hungers for the gold, but he also desires the beautiful Cari and is determined to have both.
Don Ernesto is the head of the Ten Bells school of pick-pocketing in Colombia. It’s a classy place where students from across the world come to learn the finer points of personal theft and earn their place in the network. Of course, they don’t confine their stealing to pockets and so have established a matrix across the planet with bigger targets in mind, one of which is the gold of Pablo Escobar. Don Ernesto is a gent who finds Hans-Peter as distasteful as he finds Cari delightful. His people are already ensconced in the area waiting for their opportunity to pounce on the bullion. Unfortunately, Schneider’s gang is aware of them and apparently one step ahead. Bloodbath ensues.
It when the Schneider group finally discover the exact location of the gold that things heat up and Cari’s life is placed in grave danger. But the gorgeous young Colombian is no stranger to death and soon Hans-Peter finds that he might have bitten off more than he can chew, this time. Cue murder, mayhem, questionable dialogue and a poor plot.
This is a very poor book. Thomas Harris made his name from the Hannibal Lecter novels which were adapted for the silver screen to good effect. Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal were very good reads. Sadly, Harris has tried too hard to create yet another memorable serial killer in the general mould of Lecter, and failed badly.
The machine that Hans-Peter uses to dissolve his victims is laughable. No doubt such liquid cremation machines do exist for the use of human body disposal. But they are not commonplace and anyone installing one in their apartments would immediately come under close scrutiny. Schneider is a cliché. He has no hair. His canine teeth are longer than normal. He is a sexual predator and pervert. He steals and sells peoples organs. He like to wear white latex suits. He probably votes Republican. He even has a German surname and is from South America suggesting Nazis parents. Boring. The Second World War is over, Harris, move on with your life. Find a new theme.
This story is so predictable that a seven-year-old could have penned it, if not for the graphic depictions of death. The back story of Cari Mora is decidedly imperialist and appears to have been taken from Wikipedia, not known as an authority on anything. She is captured as a child soldier and witnesses other children murdered for trying to run away. She eventually escapes with the help of a former hostage who gets her to the US where she is afforded a temporary refugee status. It’s lucky the “American Dream” is available for all immigrants to the shores of the USA. Wait a minute. No it’s not. This book was published in the year 2019. Harris would have been aware of Trump’s declarations towards foreign nationals, which differ only in intensity and transparency from those of governments before him. Cari, as a socialist rebel with FARC, might have found herself in a grotty detention centre instead of a Miami beach mansion.
About the only thing Harris got right in this was the IRA contacts with FARC which Cari Mora apparently witnessed, even though such contacts would no doubt have been highly secret to avoid the danger to the Irishmen of informers. Thomas Harris is a much better author than this book would indicate. He appears to have been so desperate to repeat his Lecter success that he rushed into publication. Did he have an editor to advise him on this one? Rebel Voice is unsure and none are mentioned in the acknowledgements, so perhaps he winged this and did an Icarus.
Cari is captured. Cari escapes. Cari kicks ass. Don Ernesto remains suave and sophisticated (cue inclusion in sequel). Hans-Peter dies horribly (not gonna make the sequel). Cari swims off into the sunrise (not a metaphor, she actually does). Jaysus but how bad is this story-line.
Conclusion: one-dimensional characters; shallow plot; laughable dialogue and pathetic attempt to recapture the greatness of Hannibal Lecter which brings Thomas Harris‘ star crashing to the costly Miami ground in forgettable fashion.
Sult scale rating: 3.5 out of 10. Rebel Voice is awarding this novel 2.5 to reward Thomas Harris for not being dead at this stage (he will be 79 on his next birthday). 1 mark is awarded for making the lead protagonist female and a non-US national who is beautiful and feisty, if a tad predictable. Give this book a miss as there are better ways to spend your time – like cleaning under your unsocial and unwashed neighbour’s toenails.