MR CLARINET - Nick Stone

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

In Nick Stone's debut book, MR CLARINET, ex-cop, ex-PI, most recently convicted of manslaughter, Max Mingus is contacted whilst still in jail by the desperate father of a child kidnapped in Haiti. Despite offering millions of dollars as a reward, Allain Carver, part of the powerful and rich elite of Haitian society, has to pester Mingus in jail and after release, to take up the search for his son. Mingus has a reputation of getting to the bottom of kidnappings and disappearing children, and of taking those searches very much to heart. Carver has been trying, with various other PI's for 3 years, to find his missing infant son. Charlie Carver is not the only child to go missing in Haiti, and a lot of previous investigators have died or been left scarred trying to work their way through a violent and dysfunctional society.

Stone's Haiti is a country very much on the edge, with occupation forces patrolling streets and gangs controlling others, society conventions are disrupted, there is economic meltdown and increasing slum living conditions, confrontational voodoo practices and rituals are being openly used and discussed, and drug lords enforce their brand of tribal law.

This is a big, elaborate thriller of a book, with action, violence and ritual liberally interspersed throughout. A little judicious editing would have been of some benefit as some of the middle sections of the book drag slightly, and some of the voodoo rituals, whilst perhaps thought to add some colour, came across as pointlessly gratuitous.

All round, a good thriller which, despite showing some weaknesses, indicates promise for a second book. 

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Max Mingus wanted to turn down the case—fifteen million bucks on the table or not. The boy was dead, Max was sure of it. Three years had passed since Haitian billionaire Allain Carver’s five-year-old son was abducted. Why bother now? The huge bounty and the resources of the most powerful white family in Haiti hadn’t turned up a lead.

Sure, Max had been the best detective in Miami once. But that was eight years back. Before he served time for killing a pair of junkie child-murderers. Before his wife, Sandra, died. Plus, he’d heard what had happened to the other PI’s sent to Haiti before him—all dead, or their lives permanently screwed up, without ever getting close to finding Charlie Carver.

But with nothing left to lose—and for all that money—Max does go down there. The talk of voodoo and black magic is nothing compared to the haunting quiet of his own empty house. What Max doesn’t count on is the depth of corruption, manipulation, and greed Haiti breeds in its inhabitants, a murky evil worse than death, which can easily swallow a man whole—especially a troubled man like Max Mingus.

When the trail to Charlie Carver points to a local myth—“Mr. Clarinet,” a spirit figure who for decades is said to have been tempting children away from their families—could the truth be even more shocking than the legend? Max’s job suddenly isn’t all about finding the boy, his killers, or the money—it’s about just staying alive…

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