Mr. Clarinet

Mr. Clarinet

3.3 13
by Nick Stone
     
 

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There was nothing waiting for ex-cop Max Mingus when he walked out of Attica Prison after serving hard time for murder—his adored wife died in a car crash while he was locked up. Now Miami's one-time top detective is haunted by an empty house, bad memories . . . and an impossible job offer for obscenely good money. Three years ago, Charlie Carver, the

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Overview

There was nothing waiting for ex-cop Max Mingus when he walked out of Attica Prison after serving hard time for murder—his adored wife died in a car crash while he was locked up. Now Miami's one-time top detective is haunted by an empty house, bad memories . . . and an impossible job offer for obscenely good money. Three years ago, Charlie Carver, the five-year-old son of a powerful Haitian billionaire, vanished. His father is offering Max $15 million to bring the boy back—or, at the very least, to find his body and deliver his abductors.

Max knows he should turn this case down. There's no way the kid is still alive, and pursuing his ghost means plunging headfirst into Haiti, a steaming island hotbed of crime, greed, voodoo, and corruption. And the three detectives who preceded Mingus are all dead . . . or worse. But Max has nothing left to lose—even if his investigation stirs up a murky evil that can swallow a man whole . . . and leads him to the soul-destroying truth about a terrifying local myth, a child-stealing nightmare called "Mr. Clarinet."

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Editorial Reviews

Big Issue in the North
Painstakingly researched, effectively written and well conceived, it deserves all of its pre-release hype.
Daily Express
If there’s one thing you must do in 2006, curl up and read Mr Clarinet by Nick Stone.
Crimespree
This is crime fiction at its zenith, challenging, compelling and with an insight that delves deep under the skin.
The Independent on Sunday
This is a hotshot debut novel. If you trust my judgment, buy it.
The Guardian
Gritty and unremittingly dark, replete with supervillains, Mr. Clarinet pays homage to pulp fiction and film noir.
The Independenton Sunday
This is a hotshot debut novel. If you trust my judgment, buy it.
Publishers Weekly
Stone's adrenaline-packed debut is not for the faint of heart. Max Mingus, an ex-Miami cop and PI, wants to get his life back on track after a seven-year stint in Attica for the execution of three child molesters. Grudgingly agreeing to investigate the disappearance of Charlie Carver, the three-year-old son of a wealthy white Haitian family, Max finds himself thrown headfirst into the violent, corrupt world of Haiti in the mid-1990s. Max's search leads him from the sprawling Carver compound to Cité Soleil, the country's most notorious slum, pitting him against powerful drug baron Vincent Paul and the bloody legacy of the Carvers' rise to power. Stone veers too often into the explicitly graphic, with numerous extended torture scenes, but readers accustomed to the grittiest of pulp fiction won't be deterred. Stone, the son of British historian Norman Stone and a Haitian mother, vividly depicts a country and a man in turmoil. Despite an overabundance of plot elements, this thriller introduces a fresh voice that fans of hardboiled fiction won't want to miss. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Set in Haiti, this debut thriller talks and talks the talk, but forgets the walk. Ex-cop, ex-p.i. Max Mingus is about to become an ex-con. Eight years earlier, he'd been sent up for a triple killing he viewed as justified inasmuch as the law, he felt safe in saying, would not have adequately punished the low-lifes he blew away. As a p.i., Max had been world class, the best there ever was, according to some. Among these, count multimillionaire Allain Carver. "You've performed-miracles," he tells Max fulsomely, who seems disinclined to argue. The Carvers, a powerful, immensely rich Haitian family, lost a child when little Charlie was snatched off the streets by person or persons unknown. Or perhaps not. Soon enough, Max learns that it's a situation abounding in ambiguity. And enemies-earned through the years by unvarnished ruthlessness. The Carver proposition: ten-million dollars if Max finds Charlie alive; five million if he produces Charlie's lifeless body; another five if it's the no-goods that are produced, condition immaterial. At first Max refuses. In part because he's not sure he likes his chances; in part because he has his own reasons for disenchantment with Haiti. And there's a third factor, perhaps the most compelling. Sandra, his beloved wife, has only recently died in an auto accident, leaving Max in an emotionally fragile state. Still, little Charlie proves difficult for Max to ignore. It's the eyes in the photograph- "calling out to him, imploring him to come to his rescue. Magic eyes." When Sandra appears to Max in a dream, urging him to take the case, the deal is sealed, and off he goes to dark and dreary Carver Country-a land of murder, perversion and thin characters.Endless conversations-some digressive, some banal-too many of them narrative killers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060897338
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/02/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
1,394,876
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Mr. Clarinet
A Novel

Chapter One

Honesty and straightforwardness weren't always the best options, but Max chose them over bullshit as often as he could. It helped him sleep at night.

"I can't," he told Carver.

"Can't or won't?"

"I won't because I can't. I can't do it. You're asking me to look for a kid who went missing two years ago, in a country that went back to the Stone Age about the same time."

Carver managed a smile so faint it barely registered on his lips yet let Max know he was being considered unsophisticated. It also told Max what kind of rich he was dealing with. Not rich, richeold money, the worst; connections plugged in at every socket, all the lights on, everybody home—multistory bank vaults, fuck-off stockholdings, high-interest offshore accounts; first-name terms with everybody who's anybody in every walk of life, power to crush you to oblivion. These were people you never said no to, people you never failed.

"You've succeeded at far tougher assignments. You've performed—miracles," Carver said.

"I never raised the dead, Mr. Carver. I only dug 'em up."

"I'm ready for the worst."

"Not if you're talking to me," Max said. He regretted his bluntness. Prison had reformed his erstwhile tact and replaced it with coarseness. "In a way you're right. I've looked for ghosts in hellholes in my time, but they were American hellholes and there was always a bus out. I don't know your country. I've never been there and—no disrespect meant—I've never wanted to go there. Hell, they don't even speakEnglish."

Then Carver told him about the money.

Max hadn't made a fortune as a private detective, but he'd done OK—enough to get by and have a little extra to play with. His wife, who was a qualified accountant, had managed the business side of things. She'd put a fair bit of rainy-day money away in their three savings accounts, and they had points in The L Bar, a successful yuppie joint in downtown Miami, run by Frank Nunez, a retired cop friend of Max's. They'd owned their house and two cars outright, taken three vacations every year, and eaten at fancy restaurants once a month.

He'd had few personal expenses. His clothes—suits for work and special occasions, khakis and T-shirts at all other times—were always well cut but rarely expensive. He'd learned his lesson after his second case, when he'd got arterial spray on his five-hundred-dollar suit and had to surrender it to forensics, who later handed it to the DA, who recycled it in court as Exhibit D. He sent his wife flowers every week, bought her lavish presents on her birthday and at Christmas and on their anniversary; he was also generous to his closest friends. He had no addictions. He'd quit cigarettes and reefer when he'd left the force; booze had taken a little longer but that had gone out of his life too. Music was his only real indulgence—jazz, swing, doo-wop, rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, and disco; he had five thousand CDs, vinyl albums, and singles he knew every note and lyric to. The most he'd ever spent was when he'd dropped four hundred bucks at an auction on an autographed original double ten-inch vinyl copy of Frank Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." He'd framed it and hung it in his study, opposite his desk. When his wife asked, he lied and told her he'd picked it up cheap at a house-repo sale in Orlando.

All in all, it had been a comfortable life, the sort that made you happy and fat and gradually more and more conservative.

And then he'd gone and killed three people in the Bronx, and the wheels had come off and everything had skidded to a loud, ungainly stop.

Postprison, Max still had the house and his car in Miami, plus $9,000 in a savings account. He could live on that for another four or five months tops, then he'd have to sell the house and find a job. That would be hard. Who would employ him? Ex-cop, ex-PI, ex-con—three crosses, no ticks. He was forty-six: too old to learn anything new and too young to give in. What the fuck would he do? Bar work? Kitchen work? Pack shopping bags? Construction? Mall security?

True, he had some friends and people who owed him, but he'd never called in a favor in his life, and he wasn't about to start now that he was on his knees. It would be tantamount to begging, and that went up against his every rule. He'd helped people out because he could at the time, not for what they could do for him later, not for points in the karma bank. His wife had called him naïve, marshmallow-soft under the concrete-and-razor-wire carapace he showed the world. Maybe she'd been right. Maybe he should have put self-interest before others. Would his life have been any different now? Probably, yes.

He saw his future, clearly, a year or two from now. He'd be living in one of those one-room apartments with stained wallpaper, tribes of warring roaches, and a set of dos and don'ts on the door, handwritten in semiliterate Spanish. He'd hear his neighbors arguing, fucking, talking, fighting; upstairs, downstairs, left and right. His life would be one chipped plate, a knife, a fork, and a spoon. He'd play the lotto and watch the results go against him on a portable TV with a shaky picture. Slow death, gradual extinction, one cell at a time.

Take Carver's job or take his chances in the postcon world. He had no other choice.

Max had first spoken to Allain Carver over the phone in prison. They didn't get off to a good start. Max had told him to fuck off as soon as he'd introduced himself.

Carver had been pestering him pretty much every day of the last eight months of his sentence.

Mr. Clarinet
A Novel
. Copyright © by Nick Stone. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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