RARA-AVIS: Ross Thomas/Missionary Stew

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 26 Feb 2005

I read Missionary Stew last week, alternating with Out. It's a lot faster read, but offers just as much to think about.

Morgan Citron is a journalist just out of prison in an African state headed by an Idi Amin type. He's now in California, slowly recovering from the ordeal psychologically, but his money is running out and he's reduced to living in his car. Then he has a stroke of luck. He goes to an ACLU fundraiser in the hopes of free food and gets offered a job as an apartment super. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, he's teamed up with a political candidate's money man. Their goal is to try and find out "what really happened" in a Latin American country. The truth about the mystery event will apparently empty the White House, leaving the way clear for whoever reveals it.

Thomas seems to draw on insider knowledge of political machinations and the ways of the FBI and CIA. There's a cast of colourful characters in a complicated plot revolving around money and politics. Once again I fail to understand it fully, even when it's all spelled out.

A number of people are killed, but it's not too gory. Citron himself never uses a gun.

Despite the wry, maybe cynical, maybe accurate, look at how candidates get elected in the U.S., this is not a despairing book. There are even a couple of low-key love stories in it. One thing about his protagonists is that they are all very intelligent and very aware of the way things work, and a lot of them have a sensitive, domestic side to them.

After reading it and thinking about some of Thomas's other books, I was wondering whether he really qualifies as hardboiled. His books are definitely not cosies, but they're not exactly Mickey Spillane, either. He's one of my favourite authors anyway, and I guess if enough Rara-Avians like him, he must be in.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 26 Feb 2005 EST