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CRY OF THE RAIN BIRD by Patricia Shaw



Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1995
Publisher: St. Martin's

The Australian author of such period adventure/romance sagas as Where the Willows Weep (Jan. 1995), continues to turn out gritty, absorbing tales with a solid grounding in historical fact, characters of more than one shading, and rousing scenery--this time in a story of ambition, murder, and adultery in 19th-century Queensland. Corby Morgan, given to flashes of temper and vanity--and with an outsize drive to acquire a bit of power and plenty of this world's goods--is forced to accept his childlike father-in-law, Professor Langley, as a partner in a sugar plantation in Queensland. Also traveling with Corby from England is Jessie, his calm, plain, pregnant wife, and the beautiful, restless Sylvia, Jessie's sister. After their exhausting journey, however, Providence, the plantation, offers some unexpected hardships for all--a primitive house, the complexities of sugar production, and the threatening strangeness of the alien world of black servants and laborers--the latter fascinating to Jessie and her father, repellent to Sylvia and Corby. The Kanaka people are indentured for three years and, at Providence, treated better than most by manager Mike Devlin. But racist Corby, like many of his peers, is heavy-handed and thick-headed--and spells trouble on the way. There will be violence, murder, a suicide, and Professor Langley's use of opium to ease his nightmares of a crocodile-filled river and a severed head. Meanwhile, other passions stir. Corby and Sylvia have a lusty affair; a flamboyant neighbor, drawn to a handsome Kanaka, brings about a chain of disasters; and Jessie and Mike see their way clear to love. After treks and chases, rows both domestic and political, and the noisy, convivial, robust society in a rugged land, all ends with a flood and lovers setting off two by two. A dust storm of drama, satisfyingly eventful and gusty.