Michael Gruber, Author . Morrow $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-050954-5

Gruber's intricate thriller ignites in the very first chapter as anthropologist heroine Jane Doe employs the theories of Claude Levi-Strauss, quotes W. H. Auden, kills a drunken woman using advanced aikido techniques and rescues an abused child whom she raises as her own. The story moves seamlessly between Miami, Long Island and West Africa. Jane Doe's husband, DeWitt Moore, an African-American poet and playwright, accompanies Jane to Nigeria, where she visits the Olo, a tribe of spiritual practitioners. There he falls under the influence of a malevolent witch and becomes a sorcerer. Fearing that her husband will try to kill her, Jane fakes suicide and flees to Miami. Moore, intent on wreaking vengeance on white America, follows and begins murdering pregnant women and stealing their unborn babies for use in a rite that will give him unstoppable powers. Investigating the murders is Cuban exile Iago "Jimmy" Paz and his Bible-spouting partner, Cletis Barlow. As Moore terrorizes Miami, Jane bows to the inevitable, comes out of hiding and gathers a tiny band of courageous accomplices to battle her ex-husband and his shuffling band of the undead. First-time novelist Gruber keeps his far-flung locations, complicated characters and anthropological information perfectly balanced in this finely crafted, intelligent and original work. While readying herself for battle, Jane's commentary on cleaning her rare Mauser pistol could read equally well as a description of Gruber's meticulous plotting: "Each part pops free with a precisely directed pressure and snaps in with a satisfying click, just where it belongs." How readers categorize this book will depend on their acceptance or rejection of Gruber's underlying thesis: "The point is, there's no supernatural. It's all part of the universe, although the universe is queerer than we suppose." (Mar.)

Forecast:Some readers may find the wealth of anthropological detail off-putting, but those who loved Peter Hoeg's quirky Smilla's Sense of Snow and Norman Rush's demanding Mating could push this book on to the bestseller list. National advertising; eight-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 496 pages - 978-0-06-053141-6
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