Tropic of Night – Michael Gruber

[asa left]0060509546[/asa] I read so many really wonderful reviews of this book, I finally found a copy. And the first couple chapters made it clear that this guy can write. On every level. Strong, very visible characters, disturbing, unusual conflicts, and a story that goes zero to sixty like a really, really expensive car.

And it’s interesting. The story is about a woman hiding out in southern Florida. She was once a cultural anthropologist, working with a tribe in Africa for a long period of time on matters of belief systems and magic. There’s a long riff on that word — magic — which probably delivers more core information about cultural anthro and what it sets out to do than anything I’ve ever read in a textbook, and does it in an engaging way.

So you’ve got her on the one hand, Jane calling herself Dolores, and a series of violent murders on the other, ritualized and clearly having something to do with a religion something like, but much older than, Santeria.

On the other hand you’ve got two detectives, one a first generation Cuban immigrant called Iago Paz (points for the name, of course), who puts himself on the black side of the black-white continuum in the Cuban community. The other is an older, wiser, Bible thumping old time Florida cracker with a real talent for homicide work.

Somewhere along the way, though, I got lost. This novel requires a willingness to delve deep into the workings of western African mysticism, and sometimes I found myself unable to go there. This is my lack, I think, and not the novel’s, but it’s also sad that we parted ways. Because I liked it.

I’ve just started Gruber’s next novel, which also features Iago (Jimmy) Paz, murder, and a religious/mystical connection. It’s my hope I’ll be able to hold on for the whole ride.

3 Replies to “Tropic of Night – Michael Gruber”

  1. I always go off whenever I read a glowing review of this book (and there are so freakin’ many, probably deserved for the writing).

    But do you SEE how the author relates to black women? Ohmigawd. I would never want my daughter read it and have it influence her budding self-image of herself as a black female.

    All the black women are crazy, bad, unattractive, evil and usually fat. The black hero can’t “relate” to black women.

    The heroine is an emaciated blonde.

    Damn, I hated that book. (Looking for it so I can stomp on it some more).

  2. Monica, am I confused, or isn’t his mother a Cuban-African (I can’t remember the terminology he/she preferred)? A very strong, very powerful black woman? With a lush figure, but not fat. One of the reasons Jimmy Paz is drawn to strong women is because of his mother, was my take. The woman he asks to marry him in the next novel is black, and strong as they come.

    Also, my take on the emaciated nature of the white woman was: she was not attractive (or not supposed to come across as attractive) but as thin – sick unto death.

    Now I’ll have to go look at it again and see if I really missed something major.


  3. Well, I got the impression that Paz’s mother was bonkers.

    Gruber describes Paz as preferring white women and distaining black woman. Wasn’t the heroine trying to disguise her bony blonde beauty, and not to stand out?

    Grrrrr. I did hear that he had a black female lead in the next novel. Weren’t Paz and the skinny blonde supposed to raise the black child the fat black mother abused (and fat black mom was subsequently killed by bony blonde)?

    I was wishing the child would turn into a fat black woman in the sequel.

    Now where’s that book so I can try to shoot some trashcan baskets?

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