cover image Voodoo Child

Voodoo Child

Michael Reaves. Tor Books, $25.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85608-3

New Orleans, a town whose every alleyway seems imbued with dark magic, serves as a colorful backdrop for this very busy horror thriller set at the height of Mardi Gras. Six years ago, Haitian sorcerer Jorge Arnez, known throughout the community as Mal Sangre, bewitched reluctant Voudoun priest Shane LaFitte into committing a ritual murder that put him behind bars. When Shane hits the French Quarter on parole, he finds Mal Sangre preparing a sacrifice to the dark gods that will give him incontestable control of the city. Shane's efforts to thwart his nemesis eventually bring him into contact with a cornetist, an ER surgeon and a parole officer, all of whom have been touched by Mal Sangre's evil influence. Reaves (Night Hunter) makes each of these characters sympathetic and memorable, but the many subplots and counterplots he spins from their experiences never converge satisfactorily. The story is fragmented, especially at the climax, which divides its energies between a grisly operating-room scene and a supernatural showdown amidst the mausoleums of the Pontchartrain Cemetery. Nevertheless, events are fast-paced and suspenseful, and Reaves's masterful command of his setting turns a taste of the Big Easy into a delectably spicy read. (Mar.)