Vanessa V. Friedman
May 10, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

If your memories of Michael Ondaatje’s spare and slicing fiction have been obscured by Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, his fourth novel, Anil’s Ghost, will bring it all flooding back. Just after the outbreak of civil war in Sri Lanka (Ondaatje’s birthplace), 33-year-old Anil Tissera returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist, part of a human rights team investigating a spate of political murders. Teamed with a local archaeologist who may or may not be a government spy, Anil spends her days unearthing skeletons and examining them for clues. ”Some people let their ghosts die, some don’t,” she muses. Ondaatje, as always, specializes in the haunting effects of the past. His phantoms stay with you days after the last page has been turned.

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