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“La Brava” by Elmore Leonard


May 5, 2011 by wcobserver

Reviewed by Kelly Gass​

Joseph LaBrava is our protagonist in this month’s review. Joe used to be a Secret Service agent but has retired from government work. He is now an independent photographer in south Miami Beach. He lives in a hotel, owned by an elderly friend, Maurice. He and Maurice have known each other for many years.

Maurice is also friends with an ex-movie star and silver screen femme fatale, Jean Shaw. Maurice introduces Joe to Jean. Joe recalls being mesmerized by Jean’s movies, while still a young boy. Though Jean’s several years older than Joe, he still finds himself infatuated by her.

South Miami Beach may look like a paradise to an outsider, but it isn’t long before a criminal element gets involved in the lives of Jean, Joe, and Maurice. As the plot thickens, it becomes obvious that Jean Shaw’s former movie scripts are being replayed in real life. A couple local thugs are part of an extortion scheme that puts our former law enforcer, Joe LaBrava, and those around him, in imminent danger.

One of these thugs is a red neck ex-cop named Nobles, raised deep in the swamp, who is rather dim witted, and I’m being kind. His partner in crime is a Cuban refugee named Cundo. He is devious, and has no qualms when it comes to squeezing the trigger.

Sure there is suspense in this book, but there is also a good dose of humor throughout. In one scene, Cundo, strips off his clothes and walks into a crisis center. He tells the folks at the crisis center that his name is “Geraldo Rivera” and they check him in. He has convinced them that he is suffering from amnesia, has forgotten his own name, and forgets to put his clothes on that morning. Of course Cundo is just feigning insanity and is using his time in the center to get information on one of the female employees, who embarrassed his red neck buddy, Nobles.

Joe’s prowess with the camera, and his trained eye for picking out the bad guys in a crowd, is a double-edged sword. He was enjoying his rather idyllic and uneventful life on the beach but now is being pulled back into his old cop ways, in order to survive and protect his friends.

Elmore Leonard is a master at writing believable dialogue, something that few writers actually do well. Leonard is eighty-six years old, so one can only wonder, how many more novels he can write.

If you really like this novel, you will not have to worry about getting bored for some time. Leonard has written over forty books. For those of you, who would like to give this prolific crime writer a try, check out the West Fork library. They have a copy of this book, bound with two other Leonard’s novels – three complete novels in one volume.

If you like crime noir, this writer is definitely, one of the very best.



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