Spurred by a desire to travel the world, Ezra Cantrell joined the Foreign Service and saw it all- Thousand islands of Indonesia, soaring minarets in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan's bulbous blue domes, and many pleasant tree-filled city streets around the world. His journeys traversed the continents casting a spell on any traveler's imagination. Along with Sacha his Indonesian spouse, their magical journey is a measure for adventure.
And then the ragged wounds of life strike Sacha with an emotional disorder and strip her of a fulfilling life experience. Her obsessive ritual is matched only by the lecherous fetish of a French diplomat who falls in love with her nineteen-year-old daughter. The mishmash adds a disquieting twist to an already sick family dynamic. Lost in the shuffle, Sacha struggles as she trails her husband on international assignments. With each move she starts again in a different city.
Ezra finds solace from the family turmoil, as he escapes on assignments and soon experiments with his sexual curiosity. Tormented by his secret desires, he struggles to stave off the gremlins. Along comes a sociopath brimming with wicked desires who spews a disturbing shroud over an American university campus. A delusional love affair sprouts, a bruised ego ruptures and a sick obsession with a sadistic bent is unleashed with dreadful outcomes. What appears to be isolated slayings soon turn into the handiwork of a deviant mind setting off an intercontinental jealous rage that chills the mind in this fictional drama.
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A Ritual of the Monkey
By Richard Sole
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Richard Sole
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Zesty Mélange
Brett steals a glance at his watch and looks up to survey the street down below. It looks eerily quiet at 10:47 AM. This snowstorm has come as a surprise to many despite the warning from the National Weather Service. In a town noted for moderate weather where snowfall hardly exceeds six inches, a major blizzard with a heap of snow is quite bizarre. He steps into the huge living area from the penthouse balcony and picks up the remote control to activate the drapes. A view of spectacular luxury greets him. Long curtains part ways revealing a cityscape covered in snow. He sits in his favorite chair by the floor to ceiling window and observes the view, taking it all in. It's a winter wonderland in Washington and Brett is marooned with nowhere to go.
His reverie is brought back to life by what he thinks is a movement in the blizzard, he squints trying to make out an image laboring against the storm. The individual appears anxious and restless. Disinterested, Brett sits up and gets out of his chair to flip on the TV.
"... Once again, the heaviest snows are expected between Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland. 14th street is seeing big storms all the way to Adams Morgan. On top of what has already fallen more snow is expected in this region tomorrow. The office of the Mayor has declared a state of emergency.... Coming up: Another brazen killing shocks a quiet neighborhood in our region. If the winter weather makes you feel tired and low, find out ways to beat the winter blues ...,"
He saunters into the kitchen and pulls the double door refrigerator open. It is stocked with fruit juices, milk, bread and Budweiser. He grabs a jug, pours a cup of juice and takes a swallow.
A FedEx envelope lies on the granite counter top.
"Shucks! This was supposed to go out this morning," he mutters.
Brett sits back in the kitchenette and calls his parents. They left town ahead of the snow to return to Atlanta. He wishes that he had left with them rather than be marooned in Washington, D.C.
A week earlier, Brett was riding on MARTA Atlanta's citywide train system with his Dad, Ezra. He arrived early on the 7:35 AM flight in Atlanta. Ezra was on hand to meet him. Ezra is tall and soft-spoken, a moderately built white haired art lover in his mid sixties. He has accomplished extraordinary things and continues to do so. Ezra is as eager to show Brett around as Brett is keen to see Atlanta and they start off at Buckhead-the jewel of the city. Minutes from downtown Atlanta and locale of gracious homes, chic hotels and shopping centers, Buckhead have some of Atlanta's best restaurants.
"Over a hundred restaurants in the Peachtree area son," Ezra says.
"We couldn't possibly see it all," Brett answers.
"But darn, we'll try," Ezra replies humorously.
"You haven't changed Dad," Brett remarks laughing.
They walk across the design district, past art studios and galleries. Ezra stops to admire an Asian motif oil painting. It reminds him of his service in Jakarta.
"Ain't gonna lug that around?" Brett says flexing his muscles.
"Yes you are," Ezra says smiling.
It has been a week of busy activity for Ezra. A successful residential real estate developer with an intense passion for work, he is working on a project in the Atlanta area. Ezra Cantrell invested money and resources into this seven hundred fifty five acre custom homes project in North Fulton County and his company stands to reap huge financial reward from their investment.
Brett is not as interested in the building profession as his father would like. He considers it a tedious task and is more attracted to activities that deliver immediate gratification. For Brett, anything short of instant fulfillment is uninspiring. He is immature and lacking insight in many ways, did not finish college and still receives financial support from Ezra with his living expenses.
In Southeast Asia and with a population of over 234 million people, Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation with 17,508 islands of which about only 6,000 are inhabited.
Adventure looms large in this vast and steamy archipelago. Lively medley simmers enticingly and diverse cultures spin and multiply in the thousands. Though most of the territory remains unexplored, the inhabited islands conceal a wealth of cultures and a myriad of landscapes. Ezra Cantrell has not visited Jakarta, the city of his nuptials in four decades. The city is filled with dramatic vistas and unabridged mischief but it is the Dutch and British colonial-style buildings that make Jakarta the main attraction in Indonesia.
Ezra was in Indonesia only five months when he met his future wife. She is a young beautiful Indonesian woman from a moderate Muslim family. Sacha, 22 was studying Medicine at the University of Indonesia Selemba campus. Ezra 27, a young American diplomat who frequently attended cultural events was at a gala for the visiting Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. The American Ambassador introduced Ezra to Sacha's father. Alhaji Pramana Kersen has completed one of the five pillars of Islam by traveling on a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. Ezra reaches out to shake Alhaji Kersen and Sacha's hands. Gentle in nature, she greets Ezra with a lovely smile.
Sacha's luxuriant hair is pulled back and covered with a silk veil. Her conservative mien warms up a room full of guests. Like a showpiece Alhaji Kersen walks Sacha around and with regal symmetry, she walks proudly by her father. Guests mingle and Ezra stands in a corner watching from a distance when his eye catches Sacha. She smiles demurely and with alluring nuance of style she flirts but for a millisecond and waltzes away.
Ezra Cantrell, a tall lean diplomat with intense eyes is smitten. As an American in Indonesia, he is treated like royalty. But even more, he possesses tremendous personal magnetism that arouses women. He will walk into a room and women will notice his engaging presence. Stylish in dress and manner, Ezra is just as scintillating in personality as Sacha is demure.
With ease he walks up to Sacha and her father as they engage in a conversation with an Egyptian Air Force and a naval officer. Glass in hand, he listens to the small talk and at the opportune moment, he extends his hand to meet the officers.
"How long are you in Indonesia?" the officer asks.
"Another three years I hope," Ezra replies with a confident grin.
"I lived in northern Virginia for four years," the Air Force officer says.
"Oh! How nice," Ezra remarks feigning interest.
"Did you like it?" Alhaji Kersen asks.
"There's much to do in the D.C area," the Naval officer replies.
"... As is outside the beltway," Ezra adds.
"Except for the traffic of course," Alhaji Kersen intones smiling.
"Oh! Beltway traffic, that is the bane," Ezra remarks.
Inspired by world affairs, Ezra's job as a Foreign Service officer can be as challenging as it is a lot of fun. In one breath, he is working on arms control, calling the President of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to accept blue helmeted UN peacekeepers, while in another, he is promoting American business interests with China and advocating American foreign policy abroad. It is an extremely interesting job that affords him the privilege of hanging out at cocktail parties and trade shows.
Ezra went through bureaucratic hoops to court Sacha. His secret clearance was an issue and his supervisor was a bigger issue. They eventually got married in Cengkareng, West Jakarta and their wedding was officiated according to Muslim rites.
Ezra produced a script and reads his vow to Sacha.
"I, Ezra, take you, Sacha, to be my lawfully wedded wife. My constant friend my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live."
Sacha watched Ezra read and struggled to contain streaming tears. She wipes her face while forcing a smile and pulls her hair out of her face. Ezra produces a ring from his breast pocket, looks into Sacha's eyes and slips it on her ring finger. Sacha is engulfed in rapture. She looks at Ezra amid free flowing tears and reads her vow.
"Ezra I take you to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I promise to always make your favorite banana milkshake. In the presence of Allah and our friends, I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live."
Ezra firmed his lips and holds back emotions then he smiled at the banana milkshake nuance. He looked at her lovingly, pulled her close and kissed her passionately.
After the wedding, Sacha and Ezra leave for Brisbane, Australia on their honeymoon. A self-indulging adventure and relaxation spot, Brisbane is a surfer's paradise with beach front apartment rentals. They immerse themselves in the city's vibrant beach scene, beach surf, visited theme parks, and enjoyed the nightlife. After four days, they fly to the Batu caves in Kuala Lumpur and visited the limestone hills revered by Hindus.
Back in Indonesia, they ride cycle rickshaws in the evening enjoying the back streets of Jakarta and experiencing the beauty of the night stars. Sacha takes a semester's sabbatical from medical school to regroup from planning her wedding and to catch her breath from the whirlwind of travels. She graduates with honors the following year and decides to pursue a specialty in neuroscience but Ezra wants to start a family.
Ezra relishes Brett's visit but struggles with his lifestyle. Conveniently he ignores Brett's lapses since they only serve to magnify his own shortcomings as a father. Over the years, his frustration with Brett and eventual acceptance of his ways has produced a new father and son interaction.
They walk past Buckhead neighborhood, a district that resounds with exquisite storefront cafes offerings, refined menus and creative dishes. In the cozy art-deco atmosphere, they enjoy dinner in the ambiance of piano keys and sip a carefully selected wine.
"It's nice here in Atlanta," Brett says.
"Will you consider moving?" Ezra asks
A white gloved waiter places the bill on the table.
"Let me have that," Ezra demands
"I got it Dad," Brett answers.
"Nonsense," Ezra says jokingly.
"No, I got Dad," Brett replies.
Jokingly, they banter over the bill.
"Let me have that you son of a biscuit," Ezra continues.
"Dad!" Brett exclaims in feigned alarm.
"What Son?" Ezra asks in a jest.
"From my cold dead hands," Brett says raising a clenched fist.
They exit the restaurant with Brett lugging the Asian motif and cap the day with an anonymous donation at the Buckhead Church and the Al-Farooq Jummah mosque.
* * *
A trailing spouse, Sacha Cantrell is lost in the shuffle with a husband and five children. She knows all about the highs and lows of sharing her life with a globetrotting husband. Not since her first trip has there been so much anxiety about a move. The packing and moving has never stopped. She continues to accompany her husband on never-ending foreign assignments. The past twenty five years have been spent trailing Ezra, discovering exotic cultures, learning new languages, befriending people she never would have met as a tourist and becoming more global in her outlook.
But for all these opportunities she pays a price. With each move Sacha has had to start over again. She has had to find new houses and turn them into homes, help her children adjust to new schools and in every new city, establish a professional life for herself. It is a big challenge. She had to sell herself to new employers all the time. When she is not working she is bored, and when she is working but not building a career she feels like a failure.
Still, some parts of the moving process can be exciting. She delights in exploring local shops and bringing her finds back home. Buddha busts decorate her living room. Matrouska dolls and ikons from Moscow adorn her coffee table, and the tell tale sign of a cowbell declares her stay in Switzerland.
Even then, she grieves the loss of her career. Through denial, anger and bargaining, she vacillates but she never fully accepts her life as a trailing spouse.
April, their first child is full of imagination and is a restless trendsetter. She is unusually attractive, smart and witty. An avant-garde material girl, she enjoys experimenting and tinkering with ideas. With a breezy intellect, she will deconstruct anything from software engineering to medieval fiefdoms, lemon scented dental floss for dogs, to a great white's DNA. She is unconventional in many ways, and challenges the status quo just for the sake of it.
Brett is the second born and closer in age to April. They share common experiences and common friends. Brett does not have a firm commitment to anything other than a dedication to pleasure. He takes up new activities enthusiastically but they soon wane. He lacks application, dislikes the rigor of learning and is in constant need of new interests. Life for him is a game that must be full of fresh moves and constant entertainment. His social landscape is littered with girls who find him irresistible. He uses his good looks to his own end and falls in love frequently but it is only a matter of time before his interest diminishes. He relishes the intrigue and the excitement of the chase but not the girl. Unlike his sister who challenges the established paradigm, Brett's approach is to free flow.
Zack is the serious to astute academic. He is as ambitious and positive as he is methodical and logical. There is no such thing as uncertainty in his dictionary. A self declared controlled freak, he knows what he wants and goes for it. An excellent organizer, he has a blueprint to live his life by and he possess a good eye for detail.
Omar, the fourth child is lacking in logic and direction. A sometimes slow witted and impractical individual, he is a shy, withdrawn and carries his burden around like a saddle. Often unimaginative and dull, Omar shapes his life around objects to fit a colorless life. He is uninteresting but is fascinated by the occult and is open to psychic influences.
Mira the fifth sibling was mauled by the family pet at age five. Months later she was killed on the train tracks as she played with Mica. Omar and Mica carry that trauma around.
Mica Cantrell made a passion out of running away at an early age. Her immense energy is undirected. This makes her aggressive and restless. She is headstrong and quick tempered. Easily offended, she will hold onto grudges and become fixed in her opinion. She carries a brooding resentment through nursing a series of injuries. Her retentive memory for emotionally laden event is deep and she will recall these experiences many years afterwards.
The Cantrell clan is a close-knit one. A bond developed from a transitory life of adjustment to new assignments and school systems. Fleeting friends and new faces morph into new cities, towns into urban experiences, confusion as they muddle in migratory limbo. They stay just long enough to settle into a new town and start a new life with new friends only for the experience to vaporize into transient aloneness. Fear of abandonment and anxiety becomes their mainstay as they try to fit in.
Through their circumstances the one true constant is family. With shared history, they learn to adapt to new environment and become their own friends, associates, acquaintances, and confidantes.
Excerpted from A Ritual of the Monkey by Richard Sole Copyright © 2010 by Richard Sole. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One A Zesty Mélange....................3
Chapter Two A Deafening Silence....................15
Chapter Three Evening Clouds....................58
Chapter Four The Obsessive Ritual....................114
Chapter Five It's De Javu all over again....................139
Chapter One Gremlins in our Stars....................173
Chapter Two Full Throttle....................187
Chapter Three Evil this way comes....................225
Chapter Four Ogre of Bokhara....................243
Chapter Five Time out Tashkent....................247
Chapter Six The Bugs of War....................297
Chapter Seven Passion or Fiction....................307
Chapter Eight Mutilated Octopus....................323
Chapter Nine Self Acceptance is Key....................364
Chapter One Chickens Come Home....................367
Guide for Book Club Discussion....................416
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An adventure-filled suspense thriller set in exotic locales with mind-boggling occurences and sexual choices, A Ritual of the Monkey is a page-turner all the way. Richard Sole, the author, incorporates reality with dreams, thus making the novel more interesting to read. I found the book to be well thought out and well written, amusing at times, but serious and thrilling. The book is an excellent and enthralling read that I highly recommend. A fanstastic book with a wonderfully creative plot. A treat for lovers of thrilling adventure and suspense.
A dream invasion adventure epic, Richard Sole swims into the swirly sea of the subconscious shifting logic with fractured reality of dreams. "A Ritual of the Monkey" is surely an ambitious psychological thriller, brilliantly conceived and superbly written. It tells the story of Ezra Cantrell adrift in time and experience, in reality within dreams; dreams without reality as he enters in a world where dreams and reality are indecipherable. What is real and what is not becomes a mind-bending, time-twisting odyssey. Ezra Cantrell is a Foreign Service employee who meets and marries Sacha, an Indonesian woman. The all-important establishment of the book's premise is made meticulously and at great length as Ezra travels on assignments. Ultimately, it is the experience of the book that toys with the reader's mind on a massive scale. As Sacha's emotional pain and the symptoms of her disease become apparent, she is betrayed with frightening delusions. She descends into madness and then regains the ability to function in her world or is it? Alternating between what is real and what is not, Richard Sole hypnotizes us with elegant dreamscapes within cityscapes and as a tour guide, takes the reader to distant lands and introduce them to its culture and mores. Like any traditional narrative, the book starts at point A and ends at point B. It just goes backward through the alphabet to get there. A slippery, cerebral drama that slaloms from illusion to reality and back again leaving the reader bewitched and bothered. It is the story of good and evil, a narrative of America's imperial character versus radical Islamic Jihad, it is the tangle of relationships that goes against the grain and challenges eternal truths. A well crafted and enthralling brain teaser, "A Ritual of the Monkey" is either a great, mind-bending book or one big swindle. Let's go with the former. P.S. This is a Professional Review. Stella Westhoff Atlanta, Georgia
Richard Sole’s psychological thriller, “A Ritual of the Monkey,” took me on a surreal rollercoaster ride. For days after finishing the novel, the multi-layered plots left me considering how evil is capable in the least obvious people amongst us. Diane Sismour, Network for the Arts