by Bruce TierneyJuly, 2007
Mystery of the month
The Tip of the Ice Pick, BookPage's much-coveted award for best mystery of the month, goes to Nick Stone for his debut novel Mr. Clarinet. This is a book for which the common superlatives, gripping, riveting, gritty and dark, are simply inadequate. From the first chapter, Mr. Clarinet spins the reader on a whirlwind tour of both the underbelly of the Third World and the basest depths of the human soul. Set primarily in Haiti, the book follows detective Max Mingus as he searches for a young kidnap victim, Charlie Carver. In the two years since Charlie's abduction, the trail has grown ice cold. Ransom demands were never made, and there were no witnesses, at least nobody who was willing to come forward. Mingus is world-weary enough to know that there is little chance of recovering the boy alive, but his fee is not contingent upon that; the boy's distraught parents have offered Mingus a seven-figure bonus either to return their son to them or to find conclusive evidence of his death. Mingus quickly learns that he is not the first to embark upon this task: His predecessors have all met gruesome, horror-movie ends. Undeterred, he plunges forward with the tenacity of a man who has nothing left to lose. With the help of comely native Chantale Duplaix, Mingus scours the countryside of Haiti in search of clues. What he finds instead is a heady concoction of voodoo, devil worship, violence and murder. But all of those pale alongside the compelling presence of Mr. Clarinet, the unseen thief of children, said to be an undead spirit, a corrupt pied piper from the dark side. Like John Burdett's groundbreaking Bangkok 8, Mr. Clarinet propels the reader through a fantasia of the bizarre and exotic, racing toward an unsettling and quite unexpected denouement. On the cover of the ARC (advance reader's copy) below the title is the notation: The First Max Mingus Thriller. I will be first in line for the second!