It's 1960 and Sergeant Ben Kella of the Solomon Islands police force is only a few days into a routine patrol of the most beautiful yet dangerous and primitive areas of the South Pacific. Yet, already, he has been cursed by a magic man, stumbled across evidence of a cult uprising and failed to find an American anthropologist who has been scouring the mountainous jungle in search of a priceless erotic icon.
To complicate matters further, at a local mission station, Kella discovers the redoubtable Sister Conchita secretly trying to bury a skeleton, before a mysterious gunman tries to kill her. Mission-educated yet an aofia - the traditional peacemaker of the islands - Kella is forced to link up with Sister Conchita, an independent and rebellious young American nun, in order to track down the perpetrators of a series of bizarre murders…
Think of Sister Bertrille and Carlos from "The Flying Nun" (set not that much later in an "exotic" tropical location also) and you'll get the idea, though that's not an exact parallel. Sister Conchita is very much the pre-feminist model of the early 1960's, dodging bullets, engaging generally in events more suited to Mrs. Pollifax than the Singing Nun. Sgt. Kella, the local bi-cultural (between two worlds) super cop, didn't impress me all that much; then again, I find "dual identity" angst grating in general. The one character whom I particularly liked was Father Pierre, who'd lived in the islands for many years, and was suspected as having "gone native" in his respect for indigenous beliefs. Cardboard British officials, and nasty, violent villains round out the lot. Still. I'm not sorry I bought the book, just that I don't see myself going on with the series. So, this one's recommended At Your Own Risk if you're interested in trying out a series set in a remote locale.
As a note on the audio narration, Price-Lewis does a decent job with local and English voices, but her American repertoire seems limited to a Boston accent for Sister Conchita that sounded almost Brooklyn-ish to me. She re-uses almost the exact same voice for the two American males who appear later in the book, making them seem almost cartoonish, especially since one is an academic, and the other specifically identified as being from Chicago.
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