THE FLOATING CITY

Pamela Ball, Author . Viking $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-670-89472-7

A chilling calm pervades this intriguing tale of imminent revolution, set in 1890s Hawaii. When the body of a wealthy island man is discovered on a Honolulu beach, locals nominate newcomer Eva Hanson to inform the police. The young Norwegian woman has a dubious reputation as a fortune-teller and dispenser of homeopathic sugar pills, but she is "haole, white-skinned, a color the police wouldn't be suspicious of." But when Eva enters the police station, she's put on the defensive, heatedly questioned about the dead man's identity. Now both the police and ubiquitous politician Cornelius Rhodes keep turning up at the house she shares with opium-addicted Lehua, demanding to know if Eva thinks the dead man was a Royalist, a follower of the deposed Queen Lili'uokalani. Gradually, Eva realizes that she is being framed for the man's death by Rhodes, an American colluding with black-suited missionaries to control the island. As martial law is declared, Eva knows she should flee, but she can't leave fragile Lehua, or her new love, McClelland, an elusive Scotsman with a family secret. There's more than a whiff of Out of Africa in the Eva/McClelland romance, but everything else about Ball's second novel after Lava, also set in Hawaii, is a revelation. The characters are wholly imagined creations—but always just out of reach, damaged and a little dangerous, like the gorgeous, unstable island setting. Readers will be hooked by the understated mystery plot, but what they'll take away is the shock of cultural upheaval and the sting of Ball's prose, "beautiful as a curved knife." (Mar. 18)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-14-200187-5
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