MaryQuest by Norm Minor


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In Minor’s (Until the Gull Returns, 2013) novel, an American woman travels to war-torn Algeria to investigate her journalist twin sister’s death.

Mary is a newspaper reporter covering North Africa during the 1990s, when Algeria was in the midst of a civil conflict. She travels to that country to investigate the mysterious death of her college roommate, but she’s killed when a suspicious explosion destroys her airplane. Janet, her surviving twin who lives in New York City, grieves over losing her sibling and decides that she has a duty to go to Algeria and carry on an investigation into Mary’s death. She leaves behind a new romance and follows her sister’s path through Tunisia and Algeria, meeting Mary’s friends and colleagues and discovering that many are involved in fighting the war as well as reporting on it. Janet finds herself under surveillance even before she leaves the United States; she learns Algeria’s history from her seatmate on a plane, who turns out to be spying on her. Janet disguises herself as an American Muslim widow in order to infiltrate the journalists’ clique and discover who’s betraying whom. Author Minor develops some compelling characters and places them in an environment that’s rarely explored in fiction. However, the author’s presentation is in need of a stronger edit. The book’s unusual use of italics is distracting (“the name of that great little Tunisian restaurant he’d raved about”), as is the choice to write out “missus” and “mister” instead of typical abbreviations. Overall, the prose is often awkward (“It was typical of Mary, with Janet’s feigned naivety, to con her into many such a rendezvous”), and the story frequently delivers expository information, such as the history of Islam, through long recitations from one character to another.

A sometimes-engaging but unpolished story of love, loyalty, and the bond between sisters.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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