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Chris High reviews  the Nick Stone novel: Mr. Clarinet

MR. CLARINET

Nick Stone

Publisher: Penguin (Paperback)
ISBN: 014102108X
28th September, 2006

Front cover of the book by Nick Stone - Mr Clarinet

MR. CLARINET
Written by
NICK STONE


On the face of it – at 576 pages in length – Nick Stone’s debut novel, Mr Clarinet, is some piece of work. It is also something of a challenge.


It was a job Miami private investigator Max Mingus found hard to refuse: $10 million to locate billionaire's son Charlie Carver missing now for over three years. Young Charlie disappeared on the island of Haiti, where over the decades scores of children have vanished. In a country dominated by voodoo, rumours abound of black magic and a mythical figure called “Mr Clarinet”, who for years has been tempting children away from their families.

 


But could the truth be even more shocking than the legend? To find out, Max will have to succeed where previous detectives have not only failed but where some have died. And suddenly, this job isn't all about finding Charlie or his killers for the money it's just about staying alive.

Mr. Clarinet is, without doubt, a novel packed with multi-dimensional characters that are at once potentially “real” and intriguing. On occasions it is their portrayal – and their actions – that live longest in the memory and gives the story its over-riding darkness. The plot, too, is multi-layered with a primary storyline pace capable of outstripping a Ferrari at a standing start.

However, where the novel falls down is in the dialogue and the, at times, burdensome over description of scene.

First the dialogue that on far too many occasions is trite and contrived, with clichéd responses grating against what could be compelling situations in which the characters – especially Mingus – find themselves.

For example, the initial dinner party Mingus becomes embroiled in with his employers, the secretive Carver family, would surely have seen anybody excuse themselves within ten minutes, rather than recount their life story over Parma ham and cantaloupe melon hors d’ouvres. There is also Mingus’s reaction to his wife’s death with regards to the women he meets so soon after which, at best, could be described as shallow and at worst, misogynistic.

Secondly, the description. Although admirable in its efforts to illustrate the poverty of Haiti, the plot’s pace of the aforementioned Ferrari frequently gets bogged down to that of a Skoda and detracts the reader from the point of the novel all too often. The time invested in underlining the fact that Haiti is an island of dual monetary status with little in the way of “middle-ground” is sadly, given the way of the world, hardly a unique selling point and, therefore, could have been cut accordingly.

These points aside, however, Mr. Clarinet still stands as a fine debut and shows Nick Stone certainly has the capability to tell a story, once he remains focussed and leaves the lecturing to others.
7/10

Order this book online - Linghams Booksellers

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