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    PARADISE INTERRUPTED by Penny Mickelbury


    Simon & Schuster, 2001

    Carol Ann Gibson is hired by the new government of a small Caribbean nation to help them develop their economic basics. The island looks like paradise and most of the people are kind and caring to Carole Ann--but a serpent marrs this paradise, the serpent of drugs. Before Carole Ann can build the roads, the government center, the telephone infrastructure, she has to get to the bottom of the problem. Unfortunately, the men who should be her biggest allies are so intent on proving their macho credentials, she cannot rely on them. Instead, she has to take matters into her own hands.

    Everyone in the (fictional) former French colony of Isle de Paix seems related, to know one another's secrets, and to fear the back-stabbing of their closest associates and relatives. The President has an illegitimate son who might just be a renegade DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agent and a killer. The President's wife harbors a secret and is the daughter of the island aristocracy. She disagrees with Carol Ann's plans to develop infrastructure first and wants a health clinic and school. The former dictator left more friends behind than the current President seems to have--is he setting himself up for a return to power?

    In PARADISE INTERRUPTED, Penny Mickelbury creates a compelling soap-opera of a society torn between race, class, and family secrets. Mickelbury's strengths are her descriptions of the island: its physical attributes; its food; its open acknowlegement of dual families black and white that share blood and family name; and the women who form such a dominant part of its culture. Her weaknesses include occasionally clunky writing and a wrap-up that feels overly simplistic. Still, PARADISE INTERRUPTED is an enjoyable novel.

    One Star

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