An intricate plot and vigorously inventive prose are the distinguishing features of this highly praised first novel by Mootoo (stories: Out on Main Street, not reviewed), a Canadian writer and visual artist born in Ireland and raised in Trinidad. The setting is a town called Paradise on a Caribbean island (Lantacamara) where male “nurse Tyler,” a timid homosexual who describes himself as “neither properly man nor woman, but some in-between, unnamed thing,— ferrets out the history of a mysterious, mute old woman whom he cares for at the Paradise Alms House. Mala Ramchandin is part of the island’s (Asian) Indian population, and—as Tyler painstakingly learns—one of the two daughters of her ambitious father Chandin, a native educated by white Christian missionaries and destroyed by his yearning to cross inflexible social and racial boundaries. In a compulsively readable narrative that leaps deftly about in time, Mootoo gradually discloses the circumstances leading up to Mala’s withdrawal: Chandin’s reluctant marriage to his fellow native Sarah and his frustrated love for her white mistress Lavinia; Sarah’s panicked abandonment of her husband and children; and the solace that the aggrieved Chandin sought from Mala and her sister Asha. The sinuous unwinding of Mootoo’s clever plot will remind many readers of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which this novel resembles also in its plenitude of exotic detail, magical-realist interludes, and captivating language (its characters speak a lilting pidgin English reminiscent of the dialogue in V.S. Naipaul’s early fiction). Mootoo does leave some loose ends dangling, however, and one doesn’t know quite what to make of Tyler’s incipient romance with Otoh, the son (or perhaps daughter) of Mala’s former schoolmate. Still, this strongly imagined vision of a post-Edenic paradise where “almost everybody. . . wish they could be somebody or something else” offers a moving portrayal of a pathetically ruined life and an appealing allegory of the varieties of romantic and sexual experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8021-1633-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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