Friday, March 1, 2013

The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks by Gillian Royes

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Atria Books, December 2012
Pages: 464

While many think an island paradise as carefree, life is not easy in Largo Bay, Jamaica. The main industry is fishing, which no longer supports enough families, resulting in poverty and a lack of basic services, such as law enforcement. Progress is also held back by a religious, conservative native population, with tones of racism and homophobia making it an unfriendly (and possibly deadly) place for tourists. 

Eric Keller is a white American who took up residence in Largo fifteen years earlier, and had opened a hotel which was destroyed by a subsequent hurricane. With the help and partnership of Shad Myers, who works at the bar he salvaged from the hotel's debris, he has been contacted by an outside investor to rebuild the hotel, if they can work out plans to make it economically feasible. Knowing what this would mean to the local economy, Eric and Shad try to get the other locals to support their efforts, and Eric brings in his estranged adult son, Joseph, to help with the financial plans. Although Joseph seems to hook up with a local's beautiful daughter, there are still lots of rumors, some based on one of his previous visits, that Joseph may be a "batty" (gay) man. In his role as unofficial peacekeeper, Shad tries to find the source of the comments and outright death threats directed at Joseph, and keep him safe without jeopardizing the plans for the hotel. It's a journey that takes them all to levels they never imagined. 

Ms. Royes calls this a sequel to her earlier novel, "The Goat Woman of Largo Bay," but it does not rely on that book for a complete understanding and enjoyment of this one. It is well-written, engaging and suspenseful, and much recommended. Five stars out of five.

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