I read this book years ago and know I enjoyed it. I decided to reread it and was surprised as it seemed like an entirely different story than the one I thought I remembered. I have no idea why the various levels of narrative slipped my mind? However, I’m glad I bought Tropic of Night again (kindle). Be prepared to jump back and forth in this narrative or narratives. Everything ties together... if you are paying attention—which I now think I must not have been. It’s Michael Gruber’s first novel so I can’t write that it’s typical of him, but his later books carry on in a similar manner. I enjoyed it, as I have all the books he’s written. I think I will have to go back and reread the others to try to fully grasp the twists and turns which lead to the climax and final pages of each one.
Michael Gruber's genre mashing thrillers are unlike anything else you will read, encompassing as they do elements of thriller, mystery, literary fiction in the form of genuinely interesting philosophical musings and recurring themes exploring the nature of the universe and reality with examinations of materialism, mysticism, ontology and cosmology.
Tropic of Night is the opening volume of the Jimmy Paz trilogy, Gruber's first works not as a ghost writer. Gruber's historical thrillers gained greater acclaim, but the Paz trilogy remains a favorite of mine and a yearly re-read. Jimmy Paz, hero of the Killer Cat case (Night of the Jaguar: A Novel (Jimmy Paz)) and secret solver of an international incident (Valley of Bones: A Novel) is introduced here as he becomes involved in a very weird case that seems to involve African Magic that actually works. The tale is told with alternating character perspectives and the reader also meets Jane Doe, a former anthropologist and trust fund baby now disguised as a former nun and living in fear and hiding in Miami. Just how this happens is told in flashbacks that move the narrative forward and encompass anthropology, cosmology, shamanic mysticism European, African and Cuban, Santeria, police procedural, Tai Kwan Do and a great character study.
If these things sound like they couldn't possibly fit together, that is the fun of reading a Gruber novel. He makes them fit together and while he does he muses on the nature of consciousness and reality and teaches the reader something about an academic subject be it anthropology, entomology, Catholic theology or art history, to name a few topics from his many thrillers. Gruber is always, always an intelligent and entertaining delight who is a curious seeker and any reader who is the same will find his books a non-guilty pleasure.
Truly, more than a master of the genre, Gruber's works have elements of the literary and character study as well, wrapped up in an appealing, page-turning package. I have been pre-ordering his books for his last three publications after discovering him with the Jimmy Paz trilogy. I highly recommend that lovers of a good read that has brains and brio start with the Paz Trilogy and move on to all of his other works. A delightful find.
In Tropic of Night, as he does in all his novels, Michael Gruber writes with a deceptive directness and ease. You settle into the pages aware that the story has you from the first paragraph and without warning you're pulled in past the normal boundaries of any genre and you're in the deep end with complex characters in an even more complex world that is frightening in it's strangeness and completely grounded familiarity. Tropic of Night, the first of the three great Jimmy Paz novels, journeys from Long Island to West Africa to Miami, with each world visually clear and seductive in their difference and the tension between science, magic, faith, belief, good and evil, and what is even real in our lives, twisting and into a knot that finally has to break. It does, and I tumbled out of this book grateful for all I experienced in it's pages and anxious to dive into the next Jimmy Paz book, Valley of Bones.
Not for the squeamish but certainly for me!! This is not just a novel but a course in African sorcery and magic! Mr. Gruber knows his stuff and willingly shares it. Paz is a great (womanizing) character whose Cuban heritage is perfect for slowly accepting the reality of African spells and "invisibles". Jane Doe has seen it all and risks everything to try to bring Paz into her world. Her heart of gold and her knowledge of magic is a wonderful combination. Tread carefully and know you've been warned.
I have not read something this good for years! It pulled me in and lived in my mind until I could manage to finish the book. Just some of its good points: Its characters are all rich and clearly drawn - and fascinating. Gruber is one of a handful of authors that I have found who can blend separate narratives (there are 3) into a cohesive tale. The story is wholly convincing, with details that hang together.
There is a rich background story, a gripping present-day crisis, and an excellent detective (or two?). Jimmy Paz, Gruber's police detective hero, is a great character - level-headed, smart, a blend of Cuban, black, and American cultures, cynical and modern. And he can cook, too!!! He is beautifully contrasted by his old-fashioned and deeply religious partner, Cletis Barlow, who has a Bible quote for every crime scene.
At this point, I have already bought the other Jimmy Paz books, have finished the next (Valley of Bones), and am moving in on the third (Night of the Jaguar). I desperately hope to find that Michael Gruber has returned to writing Jimmy Paz stories, because I am hooked!
* I just re-read this book, and had to come back to say that the book is just as good a second time through! I picked up on subtle bits that I missed the first time, and was just as deeply hooked into the story. Excellent!!