I first read Gruber's Valley of Bones
, which is the sequel to Tropic of Night
, and I can tell you this is a much more complex book than its sequel. VoB
is an above-average mystery/thriller/police procedural, with the bonus of excellent writing, plotting, and a fascinating suspect whose backstory gets almost as much play as that of the investigating detective, but overall stayed fairly close to the usual formula for the genre.
I'm intrigued by some of the similarities between Tropic of Night
- both feature a major character who has spent a good deal of time in West Africa, and also has a past connection to a religious order. Wonder if those are both reflections of the old "write what you know" axiom?
As with VoB
, Tropic of Night
is told through multiple timelines/voices: in epistolatory form, we get the story of "Jane"'s affair with a legendary anthropologist, subsequent field work with two near-mythical cultures that practice magic, and marriage to a talented playwright and poet; we also see Jane in the current day, as she lives an almost invisible life in Miami, having faked her own death to prevent her husband from sweeping her up in the dark arts into which he has been initiated. In almost a sub-plot, detective Jimmy Paz investigates a series of ritual murders and finds himself drawn into a world of occult practices and unexplained phenomena, and eventually crosses paths with Jane, who may be the only one who can stop the murderer.
Other themes: racism, privilege, cultural bias, intellectual tourism, Santeria, the nature of identity.