Dancing With The Tiger. Lili Wright. Penguin Group (USA). July 2016. 464 pp. ISBN#: 9780399175176.
An addicted character, “Looter,” finds an Aztec funeral mask and knows it’s very valuable. He, however, has no interest in its cultural or artistic value but instead sees it as a cash cow for his insatiable addiction. That mask is believed to be the funeral mask of Moctezuma II or Montezuma as he is more popularly known. Anna, a fact checker, is highly qualified as an art collector, having begun to learn this field at the knees of her father, a failed art collector. Both are humiliated at having their facts proved to be false in a book written by Anna, a humiliation that publicly spread and destroyed any credibility the father-son had in the art world’s tough, competitive field. A drug lord and a gardener turned hitman also vie for possession of this mask and will do whatever is necessary to obtain it.
Anna is the only character whose complex nature is gradually delineated in this novel that reads more like surrealistic segments. She also seems to be the only one interested in the life behind this mask. As the mask moves from the characters who steal it from each other, we learn that it possesses a mystical power that transforms the personality of those who attempt to wear it. It’s mystery is the question it poses when worn: Does it bring out the true personality of the wearer or is it the supernatural power behind the original owner’s death mask, Montezuma?
The other aspect of this long, drawn-out plot involves the beautiful descriptions of Mexican culture, setting, and artistic history that is juxtaposed with the poverty, greed, and despairing lifestyle of contemporary Mexicans. Anna seems to be the only character truly in touch with the more noble aspects of Mexican history and art. One can empathize with her intelligence and frustration at how she could have missed the errors throughout her book and her desire to set it aright with a new book about this phenomenal new find of a funerary mask from ancient Mexico.
Who is the Tiger? Readers will discover the symbolic and pragmatic nature of the title throughout the complex plot that is worthwhile to persevere in following despite the meandering back and forth accounts interspersed throughout the story. Interesting read with elements of mystery, adventure, paranormal, history, crime, romance, and art – something for everyone!