Heart Of The Matter
by Raynetta Maņees, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-262-2


There's an irresistibly upbeat vibrancy in Raynetta Maņees' prose so that Heart Of The Matter is an easy, infectiously sunny read despite its rather dark premise. The plot, however, necessitates that the heroine Affrica Bryant plays the clueless victim, and she does, for 266 out of 285 pages.

To say that I'm not happy is such an understatement.

Affrica Bryant is the new Mayor of the Michigan town of Passion. No, she's not elected, she's pretty much set up to be one by her corrupt mentor, her equally corrupt hubby-to-be, and yes, her best friend is in the secret too. Affrica, however, has no idea for 90% of this story, and she wonders why there is so much corruption going on in the bureaucracy.

As Affrica tries to prove her worth, she will clash with only slightly less clueless Chief-of-Police Alex Bartholomew, who has no idea for a disturbingly long time that his own team is infested with corrupt pigs.

Oh, and since Affrica is engaged to her guy, she is flirting fast and easy with infidelity with Alex, although her guy Delroy is scum in the first place. Besides, who wants to marry a con anyway? Some readers of the Stand By Your Man Even If He Is Sinking Into The Quicksand philosophy will probably hate Affrica, but me? More power to pragmatism. Love makes the world go round, yeah, but it will go round faster if love comes with lots and lots of money too, yeah?

Apart from their criminal cluelessness, Affrica and Alex have no other flaws that irritate me. But that one single flaw of theirs is enough to ruin my mood. Who says ignorance is bliss? Ms Maņees goes one further: she makes ignorance a virtue. Back to school, everybody!

Rating: 74


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