cover image A Dancer in the Dust

A Dancer in the Dust

Thomas H. Cook. Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2272-8

New York risk management consultant Ray Campbell, the narrator of this fine if flawed crime novel from Edgar-winner Cook (The Chatham School Affair), worked in the African country of Lubanda for a nonprofit organization 20 years ago as an idealistic young man. The present-day New York murder of Seso Alaya, a Lubandan employed by Campbell then, brings back difficult memories of Africa and, particularly, of the only woman he ever loved, Martine Aubert, a white Lubandan who embraced her country as it was, eschewing contributions of do-gooders. Campbell has never forgiven himself for his inadvertent role in Martine’s undoing, and by returning to Lubanda to investigate Seso’s murder, he hopes to make amends by helping her beloved homeland. Cook displays an excellent grasp of the culture of African villages and of NGOs, but the constant time-shifting can be dizzying. And his hero’s habit of couching a wide range of situations, from love to farming, in terms of risk management theory distracts more than it enlightens. (Sept.)