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Summary and book reviews of Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber

Tropic of Night

by Michael Gruber

Tropic of Night
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2003, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 480 pages

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Book Summary

This 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.

Not since The Secret History has a novel so flawlessly married the ferocious intensity of an unforgettable thriller with the depth, daring, and nuance of our most celebrated literary fiction. Tropic of Night is a virtuoso performance -- an unforgettably accomplished novel, a masterpiece of electricity and ambition.

Jane Doe was a promising anthropologist, an expert on shamanism. Now she's nothing, a shadow: after faking her own suicide, she's living under an assumed identity in Miami with a little girl to protect. Everyone thinks she's dead. Or so she hopes.

Then the killings start, a series of ritualistic murders that terrifies all of Miami. The investigator is Jimmy Paz, a Cuban-American police detective. There are witnesses, but they can recall almost nothing of the events, as though their memories have been erased -- as if a spell has been cast on each of them. Equally bizarre is the string of clues Paz uncovers: a divination charm, exotic drugs found in the bodies of the victims, a century-old report telling of a secret place in the heart of Africa.

These clues point Paz inexorably toward the fugitive, Jane Doe, and force Jane to realize that the darkness she has fled is seeking her out, hunting her down. By the time her path intersects with Jimmy Paz's, the two will be thrust into a cataclysmic battle between good and an evil unimaginable to the Western mind.

Chapter One

Looking at the sleeping child, I watch myself looking at the sleeping child, placing the dyad in a cultural context, classifying the feelings I am feeling even as I feel them. This is partly the result of my training as an anthropologist and ethnographer and partly a product of wonder that I can still experience feelings other than terror. It has been a while. I assess these feelings as appropriate for female, white, American, Anglo-Saxon ethnicity, Roman Catholic (lapsed), early-twenty-first c., socioeconomic status one, working below SES.

Socioeconomic status. Having these feelings. Motherhood. Lay your sleeping head, my love, human on my faithless arm, as Auden says. Maladie de l'anthropologie, Marcel used to call it, a personalized version of Mannheim's paradox: the ethnographer observes the informant, at the same time observes herself observing the informant, because she, the ethnographer, is part of a culture too. Then at the same time observing herself ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Vero Beach Press Journal (Florida)

Gruber’s debut novel is part suspenseful thriller set in Miami, and part literary novel that reminds readers of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Seattle Times

Gripping ... Gurber has written an undeniably strong book.

Washington Post

An astonishing piece of fiction, one that expands the boundaries of the thriller genre.

USA Today

Tropic of Night simmers in darkness and sorcery ... an extraordinary debut ... bold, provocative, and frightening ...

Kirkus Reviews

What would be overripe overplotting in lesser hands becomes wonderfully credible here, with cleverly drawn characters (Paz and his most excellent mum must surely return), trunkloads of ethno-botanical factoids, and interspersed sections from Jane’s African logbook. The climax is pleasantly apocalyptic. Monstrously entertaining.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

This first novel is being launched with a considerable amount of publisher hype. So, of course, reviewers' first question is, Does the book live up to all the publicity fuss? In this case, the answer is an unhesitating yes. This intelligent thriller builds tension from the first page.

Author Blurb Ridley Pearson
WOW -- what an incredible talent!... A superb read that draws you down into its spell of murder and magic. Astonishing.

Author Blurb Phillip Margolin, author of Wild Justice and Ties That Bind
Brilliant, riveting, chilling and original.

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