Isabel Allende talks about her latest novel — and her first mystery — RIPPER. It’s about an appealing young sleuth who teams up with her grandfather and some online friends to solve a spate of murders in San Francisco. Then we re-broadcast our 2010 interview with Allende about her novel of revolutionary Haiti, Island Beneath The Sea.
Isabel Allende is one of the best-known writers in the Americas and the author of the 20 books, including The House of Spirits, Maya’s Notebook and Island Beneath The Sea. But until now, she never tried her hand at the mystery genre.
I admit, I was skeptical at first that she could pull it off. But as I was drawn into the multilayered plot of her new novel, RIPPER, it became clear that Allende has mastered the genre. It was also clear that she was had a lot of fun writing the book.
When people start turning up dead in San Francisco, a brilliant teenage sleuth named Amanda decides to use an online role-playing game to find what she suspects is a serial killer. But little does she know her own mother may be at risk. Here’s what Ripper’s publisher, Harper Collins, says about the characters:
The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.
While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD’s Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.
In Ripper, Allende’s minor characters are as richly drawn as the major ones. And while she spins her hugely entertaining yarn, she also manages to touch on more serious issues, like PTSD, the juvenile justice system and mass surveillance.
Island Beneath The Sea (re-broadcast)
It was just over four years ago that Haiti suffered the most devastating earthquake in its history. When the earthquake struck, evangelist Pat Robertson laid the blame at the feet of the Haitian people, implying that, in overthrowing their French colonial slave masters in the 18th century, their forebears had made a pact with the devil — and the earthquake was God’s revenge.
Robertson’s wacko commentary was a reminder of how deep and long lasting is the rage of the rulers against those who dare to free themselves from it. Haiti’s revolution still remains unique in world history as the only successful slave rebellion.
Just a few months after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Isabel Allende came out with a sweeping historical novel, Island Beneath The Sea, that brought the era of Haiti’s rebellion against French rule alive for the reader.
It tells the story of the slave Tété, a woman born into slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue. Rich in historical detail, Island Beneath The Sea explores several themes: the toll slavery takes on both the oppressed and the oppressor, the melding of different cultures in the cauldron of colonialism and revolution, and the deep personal relationships that persist in spite of the rigid social barriers of slave society. Writers Voice spoke with Allende in 2010 about the book.