AHMED'S REVENGE by Richard Wiley


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A haunting, deeply ironic study of betrayal, revenge, and rebirth in early 1970s Kenya. Wiley (Indigo, 1992, etc.) has previously demonstrated an affinity for strong, bright, idiosyncratic protagonists, and he adds another to that list with his portrait of narrator Nora Grant. The novel is presented as a memoir written about the events surrounding her husband’s murder. The charming Julius had convinced her to leave London and return to her native Kenya, where her father had served as the minister of wildlife. Affable, energetic, and deeply romantic about Africa, Julius is convinced that he and Nora can make a go of it as coffee farmers. And, for a time, they do. It’s only when Julius is murdered that Nora is driven to reexamine their lives together. A series of confrontations, including one with a suave figure threatening her life, reveal that Julius had been leading a secret existence as a smuggler, using their shipments of coffee as the cover for sending poached ivory abroad. Desperate to understand how this could have happened, Nora confronts her own racism and her unthinking dependence on an undependable man. Her investigations lead her through a variety of vividly depicted settings and social strata, and involve her with a varied cast, including Ralph, a black man drawn to her quest; the taciturn detective Mubia, attempting to protect her and resolve the case; and Miro, an earthy opera singer who comes to Nora’s defense. Ultimately, Nora levies an appropriate revenge on those who corrupted and murdered Julius. Wiley’s resolution seems insufficient. But his portrait of a woman reinventing herself--and a nation painfully trying to invent itself--is powerful and moving, confirming him as one of the most interesting and least predictable of young American novelists. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-45744-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998


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