This is my first review here in a few years. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.
Review summary: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 9/10. Details are below.
About this book: Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.
About the author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.
Giveaway: Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,
My full review: Leslie Croxford has written a book imbued with the feel of the desert and buoyed by his deep knowledge of the region. As I followed along on one man’s odyssey to find himself after the death of his wife, his personal mirages of the mind and heart competed in my head with those of the world’s most vast arid region.
What I liked best:
- I’m not generally big on description, but the contrast between the sparse, often brusque dialog and the vivid verbal painting of the Sahara made me feel like I was there, experiencing days of solitude punctuated by stark conversations with others who seldom spoke.
- The main character’s earnest search to understand his past and discover who he is are woven well into the action. The hero is perceptive and honest with himself, making him fine company for all 280 pages.
- Occasional clever observations about humanity add a much needed touch of subtle humor. A few of my favorites are at the end of this post.
- Bonus points have been given for the delicate yet effective handling of both the sex and violence.
What I liked least:
- One significant event in the narrative is never explained well enough for me, and the little explanation it does receive contradicts other parts of the plot. It’s a minor but irritating flaw.
- I’m definitely not a fan of the very end. I will not give anything away, but only say that there were several possible variations on it that would have fit the spirit of the story as well or better, in my opinion, and been more satisfying to and even respectful of the reader.
In spite of these two issues, the book is well worth reading for all those who yearn to experience other lives and stranger worlds inside the covers of the novels they choose.
This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.
Read more reviews at:
January 25: Locks, Hooks and Books
February 1: Bookaholic
February 1: Journey of a Bookseller
February 8: Sharing Links and Wisdom
A few of my favorite quotes
- “… recounting the tale to myself, to that other beholding part of me standing in for the God in whom I no longer believe, but to whom I apparently continue to have things to say.”
- “Be that as it may, I kept no diary. What I had to say about myself today was the same as I would have said yesterday or what I shall say tomorrow …”
- “Wherever one is, Monsieur,” the officer said, looking directly at me, “one is actually in one’s own situation. That’s the case regardless of how alien one’s surroundings are.” He replaced his cap over his clear features and prepared to leave. “So one would do well to understand what that situation is. It might save one a lot of trouble in one’s new setting.”
A personal note: I come to this review with a bit of bias, as we all do. In my case, I, too have written a book (x0) about Africa (Nigeria) drawing on my professional background (as a geophysicist) so I wanted to like this novel. I was once employed by one of the major oil companies exploring for oil in Algeria (where Deep Sahara takes place). Although I never worked there, I heard plenty of stories and have an appreciation for the female geologist in this novel. (There aren’t that many of us.) I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.
If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.