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DancerInThedustI had to write a review of A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H. Cook with a limit of 200 words. Impossible. So, here’s a little fuller review.

Let me start by saying I am an avid Thomas H. Cook fan, beginning with The Chatham School Affair (which I’m planning to read again, one of these days), which is my favorite still. His writing is lyrical and descriptive. His plots are unusual. His characters run the range of likeable to untrustworthy. A Dancer in the Dust is a departure from his norm, if you can actually say he has a norm.

As an idealistic college graduate, Ray Chambers decides to spend a year in the African nation of Lubanda through an organization called Hope for Lubanda. His boss was Bill Hammond. His native assistant is Seso Alaya. On his first day there, in the market, he meets Martine Aubert, a white Lubandan farmer whose father had emigrated to Lubanda many decades ago. Aubert had very distinct opinions as to what these ‘do-good’ organizations were really doing and whether they actually made Lubandan life better–no they didn’t. This was contrary to
Chambers’ opinion and those of the nation’s dictator. She was a thorn in the government’s side. But of course, Chambers fell in love with her.

Twenty years later, Alaya’s tortured body is found in an alleyway near a sleazy Manhattan hotel. He had called Hammond a week prior saying he had important information but they never met and that information was never passed. Hammond asks Chambers to investigate the murder and retrieve the information.

The scene is set. Alaya’s murder is merely the ploy for the rest of the book. The book flips back and forth between the current day and Chambers’ reminiscences about his time spent in Lubanda, especially his relationship with Martine, as well as the political climate of the country. It is also a means for Cook’s diatribe against the Westernization of underdeveloped countries.

A Dancer in the Dust kept my interest but it was certainly not up to the standards of his most recent book Sandrine’s Case or his Edgar Award winning Chatham School Affair. If you’re a Cook fan or you like more political oriented intrigue, then I’d give A Dancer in the Dust a try, but I’m certainly not going to say it’s a ‘must read’ like most of Cook’s other books.

 

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