Mystery Elmore Leonard Pagan Babies

ISBN 13: 9780140281439

Pagan Babies

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9780140281439: Pagan Babies

In Rwanda during the genocide, Hutu thugs storm into a church and kill everyone except Father Terry Dunn, on the alter saying his first mass. He's powerless to do anything about it--until one day he faces several of the killers and exacts a chilling penance.  But is Terry Dunn really a priest?  

He doesn't always appear to act like one. He comes home to Detroit and runs into Debbie Dewey who's doing standup at a comedy club. In her set, Debbie tells what it was like in prison, down for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Terry and Debie hit it off; they have the same sense of humor and similar goals in that both are out to raise money. Terry says for the Little Orphans of Rwanda; Debbie to score off a guy who conned her out of sixty-seven thousand dollars. This is Randy, now wealthy, who runs a fashionable restaurant and is connected to the Detroit Mafia.

It's Debbie who keeps prying until she learns the bizarre truth about Terry; Debbie who sells him on going in together for a much bigger payoff than either could manage alone.  What happened in Rwanda remains alive through the unexpected twists and turns of the plot. But even with this tragic background. Pagan Babies comes off as Leonard's funniest straight-faced novel to date.

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Review:

After 30-odd novels, one might think that Elmore Leonard has nothing left to prove. But Pagan Babies, a novel filled with his signatures (tight plotting, scathing wit, and that grittily realistic dialogue), shows once again why he sets the standard against which other crime novels are measured. In fact, Leonard has raised the bar. How many authors would dare use the Rwandan genocide as backdrop for a story that moves gaily between romantic comedy and a massive, labyrinthine con? More to the point, how many of them would pull it off?

Father Terry Dunn doesn't have qualms about substituting punishment for penance. If that means killing four Hutu murderers who slaughtered his Tutsi congregation, so be it. Being an instrument of divine wrath has certain disadvantages, however, so Dunn breaks camp and heads for Detroit, where he's welcomed by family, a five-year-old federal indictment for tax fraud, and a fast-talking fireball named Debbie Dewey. Fresh from a stint in prison for assaulting her former fiancé, Randy, with a Ford Escort, Debbie is out for revenge:

"I still can't believe I fell for it. He tells me he's retired from Merrill Lynch, one of their top traders, and I believed him. Did I check? No, not till it was too late. But you know what did me in, besides the hair and the tan? Greed. He said if I had a savings account that wasn't doing much and would like to put it to work... He shows me his phony portfolio, stock worth millions, and like a dummy I said, 'Well, I've got fifty grand not doing too much.' I signed it over and that's the last I saw of my money."
It's only a matter of time before Debbie's desire for cold, hard cash and Dunn's fundraising for Rwandan orphans join forces in a carefully plotted financial assault on Randy's benefactor, Tony Amilia, who just happens to be the last of the old-school Detroit Mafia. Throw in a couple of hit men to whom loyalty is a foreign word, and you've got vintage Leonard: a fast-paced, roller-coaster ride of a novel where deceiver and deceived are gloriously shifty signifiers. --Kelly Flynn

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