Her new environment proves difficult to navigate, particularly its blatant racism. Nobody knows what to make of a rich white businesswoman, either.
Black-white relations, evoked with subtle skill and mordant humor, are marked by mutual incomprehension and fear, and Hanna’s attempts at friendliness and generosity toward her employees are met with unnatural silences. When she obeys her conscience and makes a gutsy decision against bigotry, the plot takes turns at once surprising and not.
Mankell, Scandinavian crime fiction’s brightest star, structures his latest around a true story from turn-of-the-century Mozambique. Considerable suspense derives from the tense atmosphere and the fact that neither Hanna nor the reader knows quite what will happen next. The tragic effects of colonialism in this divided land emerge slowly via a succession of shocking reveals.
This powerful work boasts a courageous, well-drawn heroine and makes its points without stridency or didacticism. Since it’s written by Mankell, an author of such high stature, it should get the large audience it deserves.
A Treacherous Paradise was published by Knopf in July ($26.95, 384pp). This starred review appeared in Booklist's June 1st issue.
A few additional comments:
(1) This is a book I'd wanted to read, so I was seriously excited when it showed up in the mail.
(2) I've never read Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries so can't make the comparison. The other trade reviews I've seen are positive, but there are some other grumpy reviewers out there who seem upset that this one's not like the Wallander books. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think authors should have to write the same type of book all the time.
(3) Look closely at the cover design. Then look again. Does the woman have her eyes closed, or is she gazing off to her right? It's very cleverly done.