Tropic of Night
Michael Gruber
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Tropic of Night

Michael Gruber
480 pages
January 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Tropic of Night is Michael Gruber's impressive debut thriller, complete, compelling, and unforgettable. It is fully equipped with a multitude of believably drawn characters and situations, despite its dabbling in magic and sorcery. It's believable enough to make a reader shudder and think, "Yeah. That could happen," and this makes the novel terrifyingly real. Like an Ian Fleming spy novel, the action takes place all over the world, from Miami to Africa with many stops along the way.

The book opens when Jane Doe sees a woman physically abusing a small girl. Without giving it much thought, Doe comes to the child's aid and accidentally kills the woman in the process. The child and Doe slowly form a bond. Doe considers the girl to be her own, and will do whatever it takes to protect and keep her.

But there is much, much history that unfolds. Jane Doe is in college when she first meets Marcel Vierchau, a French scholar. She falls in love with him and agrees to follow him to a remote location in Siberia known as Chenka. Their adventures are fast and furious. Doe learns the ways of the shamans, and in studying their ways in society, begins to doubt all she's ever learned and believed. When the danger far exceeds the knowledge she's uncovered, and she realizes that Vierchau does not share her feelings, she knows she must flee alone, or risk losing her life.

Alone, she decides to call on her rich family. While staying with them she meets a poet named DeWitt Moore. She agrees to go with him to Africa. During their trip he dedicates himself to becoming a powerful shaman, or wizard of sorcery. Doe learns that she, too, has the ability to communicate with spirits. This unnatural phenomenon she experiences, and the demented power being exhibited by her poet-boyfriend, scare her to death.

There seems no way out of the mess she finds herself involved in. Forced to fake her own death in order to survive, Doe takes to the city of Miami, hoping to blandly blend in and remain hidden from Moore for the rest of her life. But when bloody murders of accurate precision began to take place, Doe realizes that Moore is coming for her. She must find either a way to hide from and save her own life and the life of her little girl, or confront the shaman and put an end to her running once and for all.

Aside from Doe's story, Gruber introduces a pair of police investigators who are a lot like Oscar and Felix. They work well together, compliment each other, and I'd love to see them in another tale. Tropic of Night is a spellbinding novel, and its readers will eagerly look forward to future works by such a genuine storyteller.

© 2003 by Phillip Tomasso III for Curled Up With a Good Book

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