Steven D. Salinger, Author . Crown $24 (368p) ISBN 978-0-609-60728-2

Haiti and New York may seem worlds apart, but in this tense and engrossing novel they're literally right next door to each other. When Brooklyn jeweler Moe Rosen plays the good Samaritan and saves his next-door neighbor, restaurant-owner Miz Ark, from a mugger, his impulsive act opens a door into a whole different world. The Haitian community that revolves around Miz Ark's restaurant embraces Moe as a wanga, a good-luck charm, and Moe's luck starts to change personally and professionally. Meanwhile, young Fabrice Lacroix flees Haiti on a raft when the family he works for is murdered by the evil Col. Hugo Ferray. The two plot lines begin their slow, tense advance toward each other as Fabrice makes his way from Haiti to New York, and Ferray is squeezed out of Haiti by the CIA. That both men are heading for Miz Ark should feel like a plot contrivance, but thanks to Salinger's storytelling and the way the Haitian worldview permeates the novel, every coincidence feels like the deliberate work of the l'wahs, Haitian deities like the erotic Erzulie and the evil Ogoun Ferraille. The characters are believable and complex—Moe Rosen is more than just a symbolic Caucasian in the world of Haitian immigrants, and his relationship with Marlene, one of Miz Ark's waitresses, never feels like the obligatory romance that so often mars a good thriller. Having lived and worked in the Caribbean, Salinger (Behold the Fire) doesn't flinch from beginning this picaresque thriller with a dose of harsh reality, and the threat of imminent violence looms over the rest of the novel. If this sophomore effort is any indication, Salinger is obviously favored by the l'wah of good writing. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-451-20784-5
Prebound-Other - 978-1-4176-2012-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-29838-4
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