The child, rumored by locals to have been taken by a bogeyman known as Mr. Clarinet, has been missing for 3 years and the trail long since gone cold, but the family wants resolution even if it means confirmation that the boy is dead.
Max’s search once he arrives in Haiti starts slowly, but the story has a subtle, almost insidious way of taking hold of the reader. Haiti itself is really the main character.
Stone’s descriptions of the country circa the mid 90s, its contrasting beauty and squalor, the hopelessness of the 80% of the population that lives in poverty, are beyond vivid… they are relentless, and the story that unfolds is grim.
But Stone never uses the (sometimes graphic) descriptions of violence merely for the sake of sensationalism; the brutality inherent in the daily lives of the people Max encounters is presented in very matter-of-fact fashion. Stone also presents the Vodou religion in a very respectful fashion, neither romanticizing nor demonizing it or its practitioners.
Woven in throughout the course of the story is a significant amount of Haiti’s history, particularly its political turmoil, yet Stone manages to do so in a way that not only doesn’t disrupt the flow of events, but is absolutely essential to understanding several of the characters’ motivation.
By the time Max comes to the end of his journey in Haiti Stone has managed to work in several major plot twists, including completely flipping one character’s role halfway through the book, and you’ll be glad you took the trip with Max to find out exactly who Mr. Clarinet is and what happened to the missing child.
Mr. Clarinet is available from Harper Paperbacks (ISBN: 0060897333)