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 In Fox's second novel (Black Fire, 1992), investigative reporter Doyle Mulligan returns for another convoluted romp in an exotic locale. This time Mulligan is cracking jokes and murder mysteries in a racially divided Australia. Sent to cover a controversial art exhibit turned inferno, Mulligan is unwittingly embroiled in the arson plot along with two rival journalists, two Ularu natives, and Maggie McDowel, a reporter of Mulligan's ``favorite sex.'' Mulligan chases one of the Ularu suspects out of the exhibit and ends up on a train bound for the outback along with Maggie, both Ularus, and an unidentified six-legged monster. There is some romantic tension between Mulligan and Maggie when they find themselves alone in a sleeper car for two; Maggie seems ready to ditch her fiancÇ because he holds his breath when he kisses--this idiosyncrasy becomes one of the novel's many unfunny running jokes--but nothing comes of it. Instead, Mulligan and Maggie are thrown off the train and they meet up with Jim Jim, the Ularu they have been chasing. Jim Jim leads them safely back to Sydney, where both Mulligan and Jim Jim are arrested for arson, there is another fire, and Jim Jim takes his first shower. They all eventually end up in the Ularu sacred tribal lands, the center of Australia's racial disharmony because a man named Killian has bought large tracts of it. Killian--the link connecting all the various characters and plotlines--plans to develop the area into...well, something. The development is not, however, nearly as interesting as Mulligan thinks it is. An occasionally witty book peopled with caricatures. Fox relies heavily on deus ex machina maneuverings to make up for an ultimately unmanageable plot.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-85366-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994