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A flamboyant beauty who once partied with the Prince of Wales and who now, in her seventh decade, has "gone native" in a Ceylonese jungle. A proud, Oxford-educated lawyer who unwittingly seals his own professional fate when he dares to solve the sensational Hamilton murder case that has rocked the upper echelons of local society. A young woman who retreats from her family and the world after her infant brother is found suffocated in his crib. These are among the linked lives compellingly portrayed in a novel everywhere hailed for its dazzling grace and savage wit - a spellbinding tale of family and duty, of legacy and identity, a novel that brilliantly probes the ultimate mystery of what makes us who we are.
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De Kretser's accomplished second novel (after 2000's The Rose Grower), set in the author's native Sri Lanka in the years before its independence in 1948, is as much a haunting character study as it is an elusive murder mystery and a deep exploration of colonialism. At the heart of the story is Sam Obeysekere, a brilliant Ceylonese prosecutor and perfect English gentleman who isn't, of course, English. Born into a privileged but unstable family his "Pater" intentionally squanders their wealth; his "Mater" sleeps around, smashes expensive crystal and feels a "massive indifference" to her son; and his beloved sister seems bent on self-destruction Sam, as an adult, focuses on his young son and his career. By all accounts, he's prospering, able to take his place beside the island's ruling class of Brits, Dutch burghers and Portuguese. But when he offers to help solve the murder of an English tea grower shot dead in the jungle, Sam makes a "central mistake" that destabilizes his life and, in a way, the English-dominated life of his whole "mongrel" nation. De Kretser's self-deluding protagonist will no doubt remind readers of the butler in The Remains of the Day: it's a sharp portrayal of assimilation that she manages to make complex and even poignant ("Are we to become a nation capable of talking only to itself, a lunatic on the world stage?"). But Sam is his own unique and problematic self, and like everything else in this lush, uneasy world, from the secondary characters to the ghost-haunted jungle, he is capable of shocking. De Kretser's fine, brooding, mischievous style is sure to captivate fans of serious literary fiction. Agent, Sarah Lutyens. (May) Forecast: The Hamilton Case got great reviews in the U.K., and interviewers seemed positively charmed by de Kretser herself. With a four-city author tour and national advertising, this Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick should find itself a sizable and appreciative audience. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

""Elegant, seductive.... DeKrester has pulled off something remarkable."

At the heart of de Kretser's dark and twisted second novel (after The Rose Grower) is a murder trial, with which Oxford-educated lawyer Sam Obeysekere hopes to make his career. Born into the moneyed class of colonial Ceylon, he is continually thwarted in his ambitions to be accepted by the ruling British. Then Hamilton, an English coffee grower, is found murdered, and as the appointed prosecutor Sam believes he can solve the case-and win a judicial appointment in the bargain. Suspicion shifts from two native workers to Hamilton's friend and estate manager (also English), whose pregnant young wife takes the stand to refute his alibi and provide his motive-her husband had become enraged when she confessed that Hamilton had been stalking and harassing her. Many years later, long after Sam's personal and professional fortunes have foundered, the truth is revealed in a short story by an old schoolmate. Although there is little to admire in Sam's heartless, conniving character, readers will be drawn in by de Kretser's fine writing, evocative descriptions of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and swift pacing. The author is Sri Lankan and lives in Australia. For most public libraries.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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