IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY by Michael Anthony


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 A slow-to-start but ultimately absorbing anatomy of a riot in the writer's native Trinidad--a first novel that is more about passion and political intrigue than about the policies that ostensibly provoke it. Setting his story in 1903, when Trinidad was still a British colony, Anthony revisits a seminal event in the island's struggle for independence as he details a plot to turn the vote on a Waterworks Bill into a riotous rebellion. The plotters are led by two women--Eva, a washerwoman, and Lolotte, a street vendor--and include Greasy Pole, famed for his jail-breaking skills; lawyer Maresse-Smith; and Clem, Eva's new boyfriend. Their plans to incite a riot are threatened by the British authorities and their informers (especially psychopathic cop Sergeant Holder, with whom Eva once lived) and also by moderates like Mzumbo Lazare, Eva's uncle and a prominent lawyer, and white fire-chief Captain Darwent, who's in love with Eva. As oppressors go, the British are pretty tame: At first, they just stand around as mayhem breaks out, waiting for a justice of the peace to be found to read--literally- -the Riot Act. Meanwhile, even though there's much exposition about the state of Trinidadian society, the sustained narrative tension, nicely detailed intrigue, and a number of quixotic individual concerns make this much more than a liberation treatise. Eva, using all her wiles, schemes to get Mzumbo out of town, Darwent to leave his firehouse at a crucial time, and Greasy Pole to escape from jail. And though the riot occurs, it isn't the British reaction but a spurned lover's jealousy that most threatens Eva, as an obsessed Holder stalks her through the violent crowd. The unfolding drama, the vivid characters, and a nail-biting finale, in which the political and the personal converge, more than compensate for this first novel's often earnest politics and prose.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1996
ISBN: 0-435-98944-8
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Heinemann
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996