From the publisher
Long ago a good man transgressed and was brutally punished, his physical form killed and his soul split asunder. Now, one half of his ancient soul seeks to reunite with its lost twin, a search that leaves murder in its wake…
In the streets of modern-day Sydney, a killer stalks the night, slaughtering innocents, leaving bodies mutilated. The victims seem unconnected, yet Investigating Officer Ivory Tembo is convinced the killings are anything but random. The case soon leads Ivory into places she never imagined. In order to stop the killings and save the life of the man she loves, she must reach deep into her past, uncover secrets of her heritage, break a demon’s curse, and somehow unify two worlds.
We first meet the protagonist of this story, African-Australian Detective Inspector Ivory Tembo, when she is five-year-old Izett, living at St Vincent’s, an orphanage in Sydney. The only possession she has is an amulet which her mother had left with her, a talisman which burns anyone who tries to take it or to harm her. The regime in the orphanage is harsh, as evidenced by ‘the welts still fresh on her little legs’. However, her bad experiences in a number of foster homes makes it, by comparison, feel like a safer place to stay, especially as she has the gentle Sister Immaculata to sing to her, tell her Bible stories and answer her questions. She does recall one good foster home, where she found a friend in kindly, but sickly, nine-year-old Emma, whose hand didn’t burn when she touched the amulet but who thought Izett was ‘a stupid name’, so for her, Izett became Ivory. However, when Emma became very ill, the foster parents couldn’t keep Izett and she had to return to the orphanage, but now with her new name and Dotti the elephant, one of Emmas’s stuffed toys.
We then see her briefly as she negotiates her turbulent teenage years, meeting boys and men who remind her of ‘foster dad after foster dad she’d run away from’, and then when she first meets Professor Bahati Moody. He’s a gentle, philosophical man who not only is not intimidated by her tough persona, but neither does his hand burn when he touches her amulet, instead his touch makes it light up with colour. He further endears himself to her when he starts telling her stories, holding out the promise of a loving and trusting relationship.
Thus, within just a few pages, Eugen Bacon brings Ivory immediately and vividly to life: a young woman who knows little of her roots, who finds it hard to trust and is emotionally vulnerable. Yet, against all the odds she clearly has inner strengths and demonstrates a determination which makes her unwilling to give up on seeking answers. As a detective this persistence serves her well. She uses it to particularly good effect when she decides to turn to unconventional means to solve the supernatural mystery behind the brutal murders she’s investigating.
I don’t want to go into any detail about how Ivory finally does solve the mystery and, in the process, comes to understand its links with her own origins, because this would risk spoiling the truly fabulous journey which eventually offers these revelations and resolutions.
It was a journey which took me into different worlds as the author used myths and legends from different cultures to create a multi-layered story. It is one which was sometimes dark and terrifying, sometimes brightly coloured and, in parts, full of playful and joyful humour. As I became engrossed in the narrative I felt I was being drawn ever-deeper into wonderful stories within stories, tales which formed interlocking circles as echoes from the past reverberated through them. This created an imaginative, almost transcendental complexity which managed to be both fantastical and yet, on an instinctual level, entirely recognisable. It was a reminder that, whatever our ethnicity or cultural background, beliefs, myths and legends are part of our heritage and that whilst in different cultures they may take different forms, there are often similarities in the fears, prejudices, hopes and dreams they encompass.
I enjoyed the fact that the story is inhabited by a cast of such vibrant characters, each of whom is so well-drawn that the individuals seemed to leap from the pages, determined to indelibly impress themselves on my memory. Some invoking poignancy and compassion, some provoking rage, some tapping into primeval fears and others bringing an immediate smile – who could ever forget Mama Pebble and her high-spirited twin boys, Ku and Doh! (If they now sound intriguing, you’ll have to read the story to get to know them, as well as all the other memorable characters!)
I loved the developing relationship between Ivory and Bahati and the threads which ran through the story about the importance of family, identity, finding the inner-courage to make choices and the redemptive, healing power of love.
Through her use of lyrical, vibrant prose and her pin-sharp observations, Eugen perfectly illustrates the universal importance of story-telling as a means of making sense not only of our waking world, but also of our dreams and nightmares … and this is a sparkling gem of a story, one which is sure to appeal to anyone with a sense of wonder and imagination. I loved every moment of it and felt a sense of loss when I turned the final page – how I would love to spend more time with Ivory and Bahati.
With many thanks to the author and to New Con Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Review by Linda Hepworth
Personal read: 5*
Group read: 5*
New Con Press 8th December 2020