VODOUN

A voodoo curse turns Haitian history into a demented exercise in dÇjÖ vu—from the fevered, all-stops-out imagination behind U.S.S.A. (1989). A year after walking away from high-wire political journalism, Ray Falco feels himself responding to a police siren in the middle of the night and gets pulled into the disappearance of perpetual Haitian activist Jean-Mars Baptiste, driven into hiding by a flayed skin nailed to his door. With the help of contacts like Haitian lawyer Lucy Marcelin and gallery owner Faustin Gabriel, Falco finally persuades Baptiste to meet him—and then, to his own horror and amazement, shoots him down. Clearly, somebody's using voodoo to control Falco—but how's it being done, and what's the point, and why choose him? Driven by bouts of automatic writing in which he reverts to the voice of Nicholas Whitney Townsend, American envoy to Haiti during the 179293 slave rebellion, he gradually realizes that Gabriel and Carmen Mondesir, director of a charitable trust whose charity begins at home, are controlling him through the ascendancy of Gabriel's ancestor Vincent Gabriel, chief of staff to charismatic, illiterate Gen. Xavier Charlemagne. Their purpose is nothing less than the liberation of modern-day Haiti—a deep-dyed plot Falco will both effect (in his capacity as channel for Townsend, whose empty promise of American aid broke the back of Charlemagne's revolt) and legitimate (in his capacity as respected newsman and expert eyewitness to history). Gabriel's motives and plans seem fuzzy and ill-matched to his effects, but the effects themselves—Falco's recapitulation, courtesy of voodoo possession, of 200 years of black slavery—are splendidly overwrought, if you don't look too closely at the climax that gives Falco his one chance to break free of Gabriel's control. A fine frenzy of hectic overplotting, though overshadowed by both the recent explosion of historical pulp fiction and the sad march of Haitian headlines.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-688-10563-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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