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 In spite of the tremulous title, Shaw's (River of the Sun 1992, etc.) Australian romantic adventure set in the last century careens at a forthright, wheel-rattling pace through murders, political chicanery, and race violence, as well as the love trials of two young women. Laura Maskey is the daughter of Fowler, a Member of Parliament rotten to his exploitive core. Fowler, hoping to shed Laura, affiances her to a captain of native troops--Aborigines who make war on their own persecuted people. Amelia Roberts, Laura's friend, is the offspring of Boyd, who's cleverer and even nastier than Fowler. Boyd, a mean black-hat with hired guns, is on a land- acquisition spree (one reluctant seller is simply dumped down a mine shaft). But Boyd's gang has run afoul of the landed Paul MacNamara, with whom Laura falls in love. Paul alas is married (uneasily) to Jeannie: Jeannie hates blacks, loves things new and expensive, and is generally abusive to the servants. Jeannie will be horridly murdered, and in the wake of that murder there will be executions and treks in wild country, and Paul--whose father was killed by a black man--must confront his bleakest emotions. In the meantime, Amelia will be engaged to an ambitious newsman; a popular backlash against Boyd develops; and a monstrous mine-country woman fights for justice. Both fathers meet sudden ends, and a black spiritual leader and Paul find a bridge between their worlds. It's a slow poke at first through provincial politics, but soon the pace quickens, as spears and bullets fly in leafy ambushes and dusty roads, the bad guys get theirs, and hands from two cultures are touched in tentative friendship. A competent, journeyman effort.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11914-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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