Who Killed Piet Barol?

Who Killed Piet Barol? Knopf. Jan. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780385352888. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385352901. F
OrangeReviewStarAt the end of the Anglo-Boer War, South Africa was a gold mine for European entrepreneurs hoping to exploit the native people and virgin land. In eloquent, sensuous prose, Mason introduces two poseurs, Piet Barol, the randy hero of his novel, The History of a Pleasure Seeker, and his calculating wife, Stacey. Having lived above their means for years, the couple will lose their lucrative furniture business unless they take bold, deceptive steps. When Piet learns about a pristine mahogany forest in the north Cape, he hires Ntsini Zini, grandson of powerful Gwadanan witch doctor Notsake Zini to guide him safely through the land belonging to Ntsini's ancestors. Mason imbues the forest with life, taking readers inside the psyche of each tree, animal, or insect, as it senses the looming danger. The writing is so vivid that readers will wince with pain when Ntsini's ancestral mahogany suffers the first hatchet blow. Though Piet sincerely attempts to bridge cultural and racial barriers, his obsession and Stacey's intractable greed have devastating results.
VERDICT Mason's previous novels have been long-listed for the IMPAC, Sunday Times Literary, and Lambda Literary awards. This profoundly tragic tale, in which colonialism battles tribal customs, and divisions of race and class sow distrust, should put him over the top. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/16.]
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