An odd tale about an Anglo-Cuban psychotherapist, Madeleine, brought up in Key West and Bath, who blames herself for the untimely death of her husband in a hurricane. She is the daughter of a Cuban santera, (medicine woman) and a rich, but cold English artist. At sixteeen she is a teen mum of a baby girl and later becomes an artist with a special interest in ants. Later, she trains as a psychotherapist and latches on to a patient who has a difficult life escaping prostitution and her brutal pimp boyfriend. Madeleine then obsesses that this client is her daughter. I did say an odd tale, didn't I? This might attract some. After all, fantasy can be fun and take you out of yourself. But not this. This is not fun. Nor is it thrilling.
The characters are stereotypical and lack any real personality. By the end of the book I wished that they'd all get buried in the Roman ruins. We have a promiscuous archaeologist, a psychiatric Cuban witch who practices her dark arts in her posh, English nursing home and sacrifices tropical fish, two sadistic Russian pimps, an imprisoned serial killer, complete with a set a scary, shark type teeth, a gay couple who live in a flower bedecked country cottage, and a nosey, new age receptionist. Put them all together and you could create a new who dunnit board game.
The plot is weak and centres upon whether Rachel, the supposed daughter and her son can escape from the evil Russians who have murdered the kid's dog and whether Madeleine will be re-united with her daughter and grandson if that's who, indeed, they are.
There are frequent flashbacks to the Florida Keys and the Cuban community there. Probably to add some colour to a backdrop of a grey and rainy Bath, much as you would add chilli to a bland pasta sauce. However, I can't help but wonder if Sewell wrote this after coming out of a fever induced delerium. There are comments like, 'I am born to a hurricane under the goddess Oya' There are references to mal de ojo (the evil eye), Yoruba gods and ancestors,and crushed up bones which are used for spells. All this meant to be like a postcard from paradise to perk up the Somerset landscape but arriving on the page like a can can dancer at the state opening of parliament. Completely incongruous and very slightly unpleasant.
In the meantime, Madeleine's father, the snooty artist, is going blind and his second wife is about to leave him. The ever cliched Russians are beating up working girls and planning to kidnap Rachel's son, whilst at the same time taking Rachel and the boy on a family holiday to Tenby, pretending to be normal. Meanwhile back in Bath, the cigar smoking Cuban witch is wreaking havoc amongst the zimmer frames.
How I ever got to the end is a small miracle. As a footnote, I have noticed that Kitty Sewell seems to have a fascination for unusual ethnic groups. In Ice Trap it was Inuits, now Cubans. What next? Lipka Tatars? I, myself, am descended from them, perhaps if she wants some information.... Or perhaps she should turn her hand to anthropology.