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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery.

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN

A tale of two artists, living 78 years apart in a small Southern town, and the third artist who links them.

The fates of two white painters in Edenton, North Carolina, intertwine with the legacy of a third, that of Jesse Jameson Williams, a prominent African American artist with Edenton roots. In 2018, the recently deceased Jesse has left a very unusual will. In life, Jesse paid his success forward by helping underdog artists. Morgan Christopher, the last, posthumous recipient of Jesse’s largesse, can’t imagine why he chose her, a complete stranger who is doing time for an alcohol-related crash that left another driver paralyzed. Released on an early parole engineered by Jesse’s daughter, Lisa, Morgan will receive $50,000 to restore a mural painted by one Anna Dale in 1940 in time for a gallery opening on Aug. 5, 2018. If Morgan misses this deadline, not only is her deal off, but Lisa will, due to a puzzling, thinly motivated condition of Jesse’s will, lose her childhood home. In an alternating narrative, Anna, winner of a U.S. Treasury Department competition, has been sent from her native New Jersey to paint a mural for the Edenton post office. Anna has zero familiarity with the South, particularly with Jim Crow. She recognizes Jesse’s exceptional talent and mentors him, to the ire of Edenton’s white establishment. Martin Drapple, a local portraitist rejected in the competition, is at first a good sport, when he’s sober, until, somewhat too suddenly, he’s neither. Issues of addiction and mental illness are foremost in both past and present. Anna’s late mother had manic episodes. Morgan’s estranged parents are unrepentant boozers. And Anna’s mural of civic pride is decidedly strange. One of the strengths here is the creditable depiction of the painter’s process, in Anna’s case, and the restorer’s art, in Morgan’s. Despite the fraught circumstances challenging all three painters, conflict is lacking. The 1940 racial tensions are unrealistically mild, and Jesse’s testamentary testiness is not mined for its full stakes-raising potential.

An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08733-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more