Durand’s extravagant, convoluted, and much-heralded suspense novel concerns an international Communist plot hatched in post-revolutionary Russia. The book pits Alekhin — an upwardly mobile Party member — against the hapless, ”weak-kneed” Brazilian anarchist Candido Cavalcanti. Needless to say, it’s not a fair fight. Alekhin chases Candido around the world, subjecting him to so much torture and humiliation that Candido ends up looking like Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. Then, as they say in movie posters, Candido gets pushed too far and the hunted turns hunter. Durand’s prose is amusing and breezy, but it’s not clear whether we are meant to find the book funny or not. Early on, Durand goes to great lengths to give Jaguar a convincing historical context — he even trots Lenin out for a cameo appearance. Soon, however, the book degenerates into an extended chase sequence. Candido survives his many trials, but after 323 pages the book itself drops dead of exhaustion. B-

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