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In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, no one can hear you scream
Story in a nutshell
Louisa, a Detective Sergeant used to live on the Island of Tarawa deep in the South Pacific Ocean before she moved back with her family to Edinburgh where she now lives and works. However she has been asked to help with a local investigation – a murder – and so she jumps at the chance. Murder investigations are often very challenging but this one is going to be even more so since the island of Tarawa is not home to any forensics or modern technology to help with the case.
To make matters worse, this is not her only problem since she has the cultural issues and differences to contend with as well as the general feeling that a woman should not be involved with such an investigation.
Place and setting
Food for Ghosts is set on Tarawa, a coral atoll in the Pacific republic of Kiribati. The detective who ends up investigating the murder which happens here was born on the island but has since moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. This clash of culture, temperatures and police procedure sets the scene for a crime scene with a difference.
Detective Sergeant Louisa Townsend, born in Tarawa but shaped by Edinburgh has the best of both worlds yet coming back to the island reveals her as somewhat of an outsider, a I-Matang – in her own home – culture shock in reverse is brutal and confusing in equal measure. On top of that, she has a job to do – with limited resources.
The island itself is portrayed as one where community and family are the focal points of life, but returning to a paradise haven she left when she was only a child now seems to be rather backward and underdeveloped not to mention chauvinistic.
The police stretch blue and white crime scene tape around pandanus trees, they take statements from the local ‘ house girls’ and the confusion of whether the sudden bad smell is a result of the crime scene or of the lagoon places this crime novel very firmly in its tropical yet deadly setting.
As for the mystery – with limited police resources, and the remoteness of the location, detection is not going to be easy. Where the locals think it is the work of evil spirits, the police and aid workers seem confused and simply not very interested until the body count starts to rise. Louisa sees this through gritty Scottish eyes but sifting the reality from the legends and superstitions which make up such a part of the life here is not going to be easy.
Well this was a unique setting, unique crime and an even more unique read! What a find! I was so pleased to have read this as never before have I been to a far away atoll in fiction!
Of course, I’ve never been there so I was intrigued to read about a crime in such a small and what should be remote and peaceful part of the world.
The idea that the main character was an island native and was now an expat returning home was a new touch that gave an outsider’s view of the events but from someone who had known the island years earlier.
DS Townsend is a character I found fascinating and one which I am really keen to read more of. this DS is one with a difference – no drink problem or such like to speak of as seems to be the norm these days – the OCD was a ‘new’ issue that I hadn’t read of before. Again different and refreshing which gave DS Townsend a fresh new feel.
Very interesting to have found this novel and this series and really am keen to read more from this writer. The characters and the setting make the book for me but the plot is also very strong and interesting. Unique but in a very good way. Booktrail recommended!
See the original review and many more reviews of books set in faraway places at the very excellent The Book Trail.