The Good Assassin

Written by Paul Vidich
Review by Ellen Keith

Oh, Cuba. Castro casts a long shadow, making it difficult to remember when he wasn’t in power. The Good Assassin takes the reader back in time to Batista’s last days, when his corrupt regime made Castro look like a savior. A story about Batista’s fall must include American involvement, so the protagonist of this tale is George Mueller, a retired CIA agent. Mueller is now an academic, teaching at Yale, but he’s drawn back into his former career when the director asks him to go to Cuba to check on Toby Graham, a good agent suspected of burnout and collusion with Castro. Under the guise of writing a magazine article, Mueller goes to Havana in August 1958 and reconnects with Graham and old friends Jack and Liz Malone. Jack’s a womanizer and Liz is his long-suffering wife, who knows Graham better than Mueller realizes.

Havana in Batista’s last months is hot and violent. Mueller’s female photographer is threatened for taking pictures of scenes she shouldn’t capture. A bomb is detonated in a bar where Mueller is to meet Graham, and Mueller is arrested for protecting a young woman from the military. Graham, when he does appear, is dangerous. He’s been absorbed into the climate, and it seems that Mueller has come to Havana too late.

This is a dense read, requiring an understanding of the relationship between the CIA and the FBI and the United States’ interest in Cuba, but it is fascinating. Vidich brings the reader into a country on the brink of revolution. The fear and danger are palpable. And, although Mueller may have retired from the CIA, he proves himself to still be a company man. Is the good assassin Mueller or Graham? I’m still wondering.