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Mr. Clarinet

1 rating: 5.0
a book by Nick Stone
1 review about Mr. Clarinet

"Myths are stronger than death."

  • Feb 2, 2009
  • by
It is 1996. Max Mingus, ex-cop and PI, has just been released from prison for killing a pair of junkie child murderers. In an emotional vacuum since his wife's death in a freak accident, Max has no desire to follow through with their plans for world travel, returning home to Miami. Unable after all to endure the home he shared with his wife, a woman who wrought profound changes in a downward-spiraling life, Max checks into a hotel. There he is contacted by Allain Carver, a rich white Haitian, who has been actively pursuing Max to search for his kidnapped son, Charlie, now five-years-old. Inclined toward a change of scene, Mingus accepts the assignment with much trepidation, the three former PIs on the case either dead, physically mutilated or missing. Maintaining his jailhouse persona, Mingus arrives in chaotic Haiti with few expectations.

Posters of Charlie Carver are everywhere, each marked with the symbol of Ton Ton Clarinet, the child-stealer to whom native superstition assigns the blame for a country of disappeared children. While ascertaining the wealthy Carver family's reputation, it becomes obvious that their enemies are legion, the family patriarch cruel and uncompromising, the boy's mother desperate to leave Haiti and her marriage, but not without her son. Max plunges himself into the local scene, assaulted by the poverty and violence around him. Papa Doc, Baby Doc Duvalier and Aristide have set the stage for the unparalleled greed and larceny of bloody reigns, the country now occupied by the Americans and the CIA, dictatorships replaced by special interests and the politics of expedience, mass poverty and superstition devastating the population.

Mingus plunges into a bizarre culture where a few reputations are larger than life: Vincent Paul, the King of Cite Soleil, a "cocaine Castro" with a secret El Dorado; Max's nemesis, Solomon Boukman, their fates on a collision course since Max put him in prison in the States. Boukman returned to Haiti, this is an old feud that requires resolution but Max is in no hurry, the missing boy his priority. Surrounded by hougans, vodou, bokors and black magic, Max resists the seductive pull of blackness that taunts him, teetering on an emotional cusp. Surrounded by the evil bred of greed and exploitation, Haiti offers a hellish landscape. In such a place, one man's soul is a useless commodity, yet Max ignores the siren call of corruption, sorting through villains and innocents with a grim resolve. Submerged in an exotic culture, Max muddles through a maze of half-truths, the moral morass a great challenge for the emotionally impaired PI, perhaps the perfect prescription for the reawakening of his soul: "He'd never known a place so dark."

With a cast of characters straight out of Dante's Inferno, this taut thriller features an unsettling plot and an impressive protagonist who perseveres in spite of hardships, with the aid of an unexpected ally. Stone's edgy and provocative Max Mingus raises the bar in the genre. Luan Gaines.
Mr. Clarinet

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