Now this is a fun little novel. Even though I read it when it first came out, eleven years ago, and haven't read it since, I remember it clearly and fondly. It's got the murder mystery, the suspense, and the good-vs-evil stuff. It's got just enough grisly gruesomeness (or is it gruesome grisliness?) to put the four-alarm in the chili. And the characters are a hoot! They're corny--a drug dealer named Mal Sangre? ohhhh-kay--but so cleverly sketched, the corny is good-corny.
So, without further ado, here's the review I wrote in 1998:
"The air was suddenly charged with a bright actinic glare: she could see millions of raindrops, each one separate and distinct, frozen on their fall to earth. Lightning, she thought... and surely it was thunder that followed immediately, even though the groundshaking rumble sounded eerily like the laughter of some grimly amused giant or elemental... But a thunderbolt didn't explain the vision Lia saw against the clouds, stark in the bright light, frozen like those myriad drops of rain: the vision of a gigantic gaunt man, towering as high as the clouds themselves, wearing black vestments, a stovepipe hat and small, round glasses. She could see the clouds dimly through him, and it seemed, as he moved, that his tattered coat was full of stars."
That's a Voudoun (voodoo) god. Pretty impressive, eh? This loa (spirit/god) and a few others join a male houngan (Voudon sorcerer-priest) from Haiti, a female probation officer, a male jazz musician, a female E.R. doctor, and a little girl, as the cast of good guys in Voodoo Child. Add to that crew one powerful bad guy--another sorcerer named Mal Sangre (Bad Blood) who hopes to win favor with some very bad loas with a sacrifice of thousands of human beings. You now have a potent brew for a supernatural thriller. And what's the obvious locale for a big voodoo showdown? Ah yes, New Orleans.
It's a surprisingly light novel, for one with such heavy themes--rather like a crime or caper tale. The language is fluid, the plot is well-paced and suspenseful, and the fact that the characters are kind of two-dimensional, doesn't detract at all. And you'll learn a lot of fascinating Voudoun and Creole words, too. Some readers may long for a glossary, but if you're patient, and wait a page or two, Reaves will give you each word's meaning in context. One caveat: the climax is dramatic enough to justify the build-up, but the ending is a bit rushed, as if the author tried to get off-stage too quickly. Maybe he was eager to get away from all those loas he stirred up--who knows?
And just for another take on it, here's what the illustrious Charles de Lint had to say:
It takes some doing to write a novel of a struggle between two Haitian Voudoun houngan, set it in New Orleans, and still have it come up as feeling fresh, but that's exactly what Reaves has managed to pull off here. It's a novel of horror, to be sure, but it's also a contemporary fantasy filled with compassion and great empathy for its characters.
So that's the scoop on Voodoo Child. Not the Hendrix album, which no one should be without, but the nifty novel by Michael Reaves.