Bookmarks Issue: 

A-DjiboutiElmore "Dutch" Leonard is the author of more than 40 novels, several of which have been made into successful films and TV series (including Get Shorty). Reviewed: Mr. Paradise ( 4 of 5 Stars May/June 2004), The Hot Kid ( 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005), Up in Honey's Room ( 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2007), Road Dogs ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Sept/Oct 2009).

The Story: Like nearly all Elmore Leonard novels, Djibouti features smart, sexy rogues who keep up the witty dialogue while just barely towing the line of the law. What's new is the setting. Instead of his usual American locales, Leonard sets his story in the East African port of Djibouti, giving him a chance to throw in debonair Somali pirates and jihadi bad guys. The heroine, a documentary filmmaker, has decided that African pirates are the perfect subject for her next film. But when it turns out that terrorists may be angling to use a hijacked gas tanker for prophetic terror rather than terrific profits, she and the other characters find themselves in their own action movie.
William Morrow. 288 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780061735172

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"In Djibouti, Leonard jumps into the souped-up speedboats of modern-day Somali pirates and rarely pulls back the throttle." Andrew Simakis

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"You always hear about books being ‘ripped from today's headlines,' and this new novel by the prolific and sassy Elmore Leonard is rippingly ripped. ... This terrifically riveting novel displays Leonard at his best." Sam Coale

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"Leonard helms this swashbuckling crew to an unsurprising finale in the playful, lethal Djbouti, proving once again that's it's not the destination but the voyage." Steve Bennett

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[Leonard] gives you every advantage of an action film and trumps even the best of them because of his enormous talent at creating characters out of a few lines of description and some of the best dialogue anyone has written since Hemingway. I know that's a mouthful, but he's worth every word of our praise." Alan Cheuse

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[O]nce Djibouti finally kicks into gear, it becomes a propulsive, bracingly brisk read, almost a different book. ... It takes some hanging in there, but Djibouti winds up being a first-rate Leonard offering, one that will find you pawing your touch-screen reading device in untoward ways to find out what happens next." David Kamp

Onion AV Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"After some early descriptions of Djibouti's various neighborhoods, the setting fades into the background in favor of the action. But the characters remain vivid, as do their reasons for drifting to a place where everything seems possible with enough money and the right connections." Keith Phipps

Philadelphia Inquirer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Like most every Leonard book, Djibouti weaves a compelling, if confusing, yarn. ... As this year's Leonard volume, Djibouti provides what it promises: a quick, engaging read that is a notch more elegantly crafted than most other books for airline carry-on bags." Derrick Nunnally

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"Djibouti winds up being a house of cards: fun to read but insubstantial. You don't have to read between the lines to tell how badly Leonard aches for a film treatment." Carlo Wolff

Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"This reader got fuddled by chunks of the tale that appear in contrived flashbacks as Dara and Xavier watch their own rough-cut footage and tell each other the events they've just lived through. It's a dashing experiment, and understandable given Leonard's love for the movies, but it doesn't quite work." Katherine Dunn

Critical Summary

Many reviews of Djibouti opened by noting Elmore Leonard's consistent successes both in print and on the silver screen, so it comes as no surprise that most critics had no problem recommending the novel. But only a few felt that the book was among his best. Most viewed the move to Africa and a few other changes to Leonard's usual formula as interesting experiments, but nothing spectacular. A few also commented that in writing this novel, Leonard may have had a greater eye turned toward the big screen than toward his readership. Overall, Djibouti is probably more than enough to satisfy longtime Leonard fans looking for a fix, but it's not necessarily the best place to start with an author who has so many other hits.