Book Reviews: A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H. Cook and The Color of Light by Wendy Hornsby

A Dancer in the DustA Dancer in the Dust
Thomas H. Cook
The Mysterious Press, September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2272-8
Hardcover

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this novel is a mystery wrapped in a love story immersed in a tragedy.  It is the story of one woman’s attempt to help preserve a newly independent African country pitted against the force of do-good charities and the powers-that-be with their hands out to use the money and goods to preserve their control.

As a young man, Ray Campbell takes on the task of an aid worker hoping to improve conditions in the newly-independent country of Lubanda. He is assigned to a remote village where he meets Martine Aubert, a white woman in a black nation who owns a small farm and lives a simple life. While he falls in love with her, she apparently loves Lubanda more. And her beliefs are opposed to the plans of government officials for development, leading to a tragic end.

The author blends a tale of love and death that is totally consuming. By presenting the plot in the present, with flashbacks, the reader moves forward gaining knowledge slowly but logically. The book is written with grace and simplicity describing a complex narrative, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2014.

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The Color of LightThe Color of Light
A Maggie MacGowen Mystery #9
Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-56474-542-2
Trade Paperback

In Wendy Hornsby’s ninth Maggie MacGowen mystery, we find Maggie, two weeks before her planned trip to France to make a film, going back to her childhood home in Berkeley, California, to clear out the family house, as her mother has moved into a smaller place (her father, a physicist, having died a while back).  In the course of which her instincts, the fact that she “plays” at being an investigator on her popular TV series and, perhaps, the fact that her late husband was a homicide detective, lead to her uncovering things other than old family treasures.  She finds inescapable the memories of a murder that occurred over 30 years ago, when the beautiful Vietnamese mother of a school friend was brutally raped and killed, when she and her friends were then ten and eleven years old.  Her mother was a close friend of the murdered woman, as Maggie was with her son, Beto.

Maggie’s boyfriend at the time of the murder is now Detective Kevin Halloran, who is not crazy about the fact that she is asking questions of people she suspects are hiding secrets.  Maggie is very skittish about secrets:  It was not long ago that she discovered that her biological mother was a woman with whom her father had had an affair long ago in France.  The film she is about to make is about that woman’s family and their farm in Normandy.  Her daughter, Casey, has just finished her sophomore year in college, and Maggie is traveling with her current boyfriend, the French consul general  and a widower with a son about Casey’s age, to Los Angeles.  The ensuing investigation is fraught with danger; as Maggie’s uncle tells her, “Always an adventure with you, kid.  Always an adventure.”  The author has blended a great cast of characters and an intriguing mystery, and the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2014.

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