From Publishers Weekly
Earnest FBI agent Charlie Hart begins his debut fictive foray (two more Hart novels are planned) claustrophobically, as Charlie rigorously interrogates an Indian demonstrator named John Brown Dog, ringleader of a protest group that has vandalized the St. Louis Arch. Over the whole of Part I, written completely in dialogue, John answers Charlie's questions obliquely, offering detours and metaphors and elliptical threats spread over many chapters. In Part II, Charlie puzzles over John's yarn. Is Brown Dog an enraged crackpot or a terrorist threat? Are his weapons, ghost dancing and a mysterious black powder, just to name a couple, truly powerful or dependent upon the superstition of the targeted victims? Charlie can find no evidence of crime, but as Indian protest swells—Mount Rushmore, a site sacred to Native Americans, is threatened—government bosses order brute force to curb the group; Charlie, who doesn't believe that John Brown Dog is violent, is tasked with taking him down. Martin (The Crying Heart Tattoo) creates real tension out of Charlie's dilemma, particularly in the runup to Part III and the aftermath it chronicles. But Martin's handling of the mystical elements shifts unsteadily from allegory to thriller to clumsy social commentary. Despite some compelling scenes and genuine chills, the whole is a lot less than the sum of the parts. (Nov.)
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When a suspected Native American terrorist starts to conjure up bizarre visions, FBI agent Charlie Hart finds his skepticism shaken. First there were "shape shadows," haunting human and animal images that seem comprised of liquid tar. Then John Brown Dog's "ghost dancing," hypnotic displays that prophesied elimination of the white man through peaceful means. Together with a shrewd Native American elder and a surly prostitute with curious war paint on her face, John Brown Dog is determined to help his people repossess lands that were once theirs. The trio is charged with blanketing the St. Louis Gateway Arch in a mysterious black substance and literally "defacing" Mount Rushmore, dissolving the four presidential visages to gravel. (In the process, a spooky crack forms across Lincoln's mouth, making it appear as if the sixteenth president were about to speak.) Martin, author of The Crying Heart Tattoo (1982), creates a memorable character in FBI agent Hart, who undergoes a startling emotional and physical transformation. A provocative thriller that starts with a bang but loses a little momentum toward the end. Allison Block
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