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Poitier debuts as a novelist with 'Montaro Caine'

"Montaro Caine" (Spiegel & Grau), by Sidney Poitier

Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier's first novel, "Montaro Caine," is a corporate thriller that veers into science fiction as it follows a beleaguered New York CEO on an unexpected quest to secure two mysterious coins that may hold significant scientific and commercial value.

The coins first appeared in the hands of two newborn babies that eventually grow up to marry each other. The impending birth of their first child, and its potentially cosmic importance, spurs corporate greed and brings together a diverse assortment of collectors, scientists, physicians and lawyers.

The story jets from New York City to Europe and to Poitier's native Bahamas. Read in the context of emerging Caribbean science fiction writers such as Karen Lord who explore the region's complicated history of migration through alien civilizations, Poitier's narrative hinging on a Bahamian medicine man who sees the big picture in the supernatural events affecting CEO Montaro Caine is interesting.

Otherwise, "Montaro Caine" is a jumble of subplots, adverbs and twists that resolve in a "pay-it-forward" morality. There's a formality to Poitier's writing that perhaps is expected of an actor with such a prestigious filmography ("Lilies of the Field," ''The Defiant Ones," ''In the Heat of the Night"). The novel reads like the screenplay of a cable movie about a CEO who learns to appreciate the little mysteries of daily life thanks to the wisdom of an island man lacking his education or corporate achievements.

Poitier's novel may carry a heartfelt message about the potential for good within each one of us, but "Montaro Caine" doesn't live up to its potential.

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