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Fear of Landing    by David Waltner-Toews order for
Fear of Landing
by David Waltner-Toews
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The photos we see of the islands of Java and Bali show peaceful tropical paradises. What we don't see are the undercurrents that keep life on these islands uncertain at best. In the 1980s, President Suharto brooked no interference with his efforts to quell dissent.

Canadian veterinarian Abner Dueck takes on what he considers mundane work in the beautiful spice islands that of examining dead cows to be sure that what killed them won't kill other cows, cows being a staple in the villages' economies. But when he suspects cows are being murdered, and then two friends are murdered, he knows his ideal world is not what it seems. His college girlfriend is married to his best friend and the Chinese woman he meets is knock-down gorgeous, but secretive.

First-time novelist David Waltner-Toews has an impressive resume. He is an epidemiologist, essayist, poet, fiction writer, veterinarian and a professor at the University of Guelph among other things. The plot of Fear of Landing is very convoluted and requires close attention. But the backdrop of Indonesia is fascinating and glues the storyline together.

Ab Dueck is portrayed as a sterling character who tries to do the right thing. He's just not so sure what the right thing is, or who is the right person to trust. Politics rears its ugly head and each individual seems to have their own agenda. An antique kris an antique knife which takes on powers of its own enters the picture as it appears and disappears. The history of the area is not that unlike the history of the rest of the world. There are always powerful men who take over for their own glorification and profit.

I was especially intrigued to read of Indonesia and get a true word picture not just the parts that tourists see. It's clearly a complex land.

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