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In Poison Makers, as in Things In Ditches, Jimmy Olsen once again turns the traditional mystery on its head and shakes out stories of diplomats run amuck, deadly Cuban lovers, Caribbean voodoo and New York City car chases. Not a drug dealer, terrorist or serial killer in sight, but a protagonist, Edgar Espinosa-Jones (EJ), a reader can root for. A story that can be dark, but with uncontrived thrills that provoke both laughter and apprehension. Characters appear from the depth of Haitian Vodoun and Catholic Santo Domingo, and are little different from those who live next door to us, even if some are zombies.
EJ accepts an assignment from his enigmatic mentor Garrett Yancy to investigate the seemly innocent death of U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Adam Quist. His first job is to interview one of the Ambassador’s daughters at a secret rendezvous in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he is drawn to her by an uncanny intensity as they travel dark streets toward a forbidden voodoo ceremony. Soon after, EJ is in terror for his life, running and hiding until he can find nowhere safe and is forced to make his last stand. Live or die.
Poison Makers is anything but the usual mystery. Set in the turbulent 1970s, the Caribbean seethes with political intrigue, revolutionaries, superstition, violence and EJ’s own tangled love affairs. With the help of his best friend, a crooked Dominican cop, EJ’s split nationality (Dominican/American) and quirky view of life combine to solve the mysteries at whatever cost.
Unconventional and outstanding mystery!
I received a free print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Poison Makers is unlike any mystery that I have read, and I have read a few in my time. I found myself enthralled within the first few lines of the book as the perpetrators carried out their plot to kill the Ambassador using voodoo, and followed with bated breath as Olsen guided me through dark back alleys and bustling streets to give me a glimpse of a rich and mysterious culture as the brilliant and thrilling plot unfolded.
The characters are as fascinating as the setting. For readers who are familiar with the culture, it is apparent that Olsen is drawing from personal experience to create characters that match the setting. Olivia is anything but the stereotypical daughter who suspects that her father has been murdered. She is worldly, calculating, articulate, and enigmatic. EJ is not what most people might consider "the guy next door;" however, he is pretty incorruptible given his line of work and a culture in which reciprocity is prevalent.
While the setting and the characters were impeccably written, what really sold me on the book was the fact that I was unable to predict the ending. I had an idea of who the guilty party was, but Olsen kept me second-guessing myself until the very end; which, in my humble opinion, is the mark of an outstanding mystery author.
Filled with insights about a culture that believes in curses and zombies, corruption, and suspense, Poison Makers is not a conventional mystery. If you are looking for an unconventional mystery that will transport you to a place that you have never been without leaving the comfort of your home, Poison Makers is the book for you.