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Brief Reviews-Fiction5
by Pat Barclay

CHARACTER, HUMOUR, action, suspense, style- Martyr Burke`s Ivory Joe (Seal Books, 320 pages, $24.95 cloth) has them all. Set in New York and the Deep South in 1954, the novel is partly narrated by Christie Klein, age 10 going on 35. She and her elder sister, Ruthie, have big parental problems. Their terminally charming father, Leo, wont give up running with his buddies in the fast lane, and Tina, their terminally fed-up mother, is carving out a new career, which Leo hates: she`s manager of a black singing group named Ivory Joe and the Classics, and tours with them through small southern towns where the Klan is still king. Leo`s right: it`s a dangerous line of work, but what about his own activities on the fringes of the Mob? Meanwhile, Christie and Ruthie travel back and forth between them, determined to effect a reconciliation. Ivory Joe is lively and convincing. True. there are times when Burke takes his 10year-old narrator over the top (e.g., "When we meet Leo he can`t hide the look that comes on his face. It`s the same look as we must have had the time we thought the Goldblatts` watchdog was on a chain only it wasn`t."). On the other hand, Burke often interrupts Christie`s monologues with timely scenes viewed by the omniscient author. The result is an oscillating style that`s well suited to this novel of contrasts between black and white, young and old, good and bad, love and hate.

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