Review - THE SUN IS GOD, Adrian McKinty

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

This is going to have to be another one of those reviews that comes with a disclaimer. I love Adrian McKinty's books. Although I will admit that it's always been the dark side, his flawed and controversial characters, and his noir stylings that I'd thought appealed particularly.

THE SUN IS GOD is none of that and yet there are glimpses. Based on elements of a true story, set in 1906 New Guinea, this is the tale of the investigation into the death of a man on a remote island in the midst of a community of nudist, back-to-nature "Cocovores". They eat only coconuts (and bananas as they grow at the top of trees and are therefore close to the Sun). They spend days sunbathing, they live in a weird sort of "Ikea-style" village of odd little pre-fab cottages, supported by local servants, and, whilst they are a small community, they make up for that with large bucket loads of odds.

Before all of that starts though, the reader is introduced to retired British military policeman Will Prior, who after serving during the Boer War ends up in the Germany colony of Herbertshöhe in the middle of the New Guinea islands. He has a loving relationship with a local woman who serves as his housekeeper, keeps himself a little distant from the mostly German ex-pat community, and is somewhat bemused to find himself pressed into investigative service in the pursuit of the truth of Max Lutzow's death.

Needless to say - oddity by the bucket loads - told in a most engaging manner. The central characters - Prior; local government representative, and fellow investigator Hauptmann Kessler and Bessie Pullen-Burry, intrepid lady traveller and reporter, shine. Glow and not just from sunburn. Somehow the oddness of the community into which they are thrust becomes endearing, and yet slightly threatening when viewed through Prior's eyes. Whilst the story is littered with eccentric characters, there are no caricatures. Even the favoured community of tipple Bayer aspirin and heroin ... well of course a bunch of people who believe in eating only Coconuts are going to have a drink like that. Of course.

Echoing much of the true story, McKinty warns at the commencement that there are some fictional characters, and some fictional elements, but in the main, the book follows the facts, as they are known. The deaths that took place on Kabakon during this period haven't been solved, although there's nothing held back in exploring or investigating the possibilities.

Whilst the subject matter, the setting, and the characters are very different from that which fans of Adrian McKinty's books could normally expect, it's what reminds you that aside from anything else, this author can write. Because it's much lighter THE SUN IS GOD is just the ticket for readers who find the darker side too much, but it also works for those of us who don't care. Especially those of us who would happily stump up to the cliché and read the author's shopping list should he be tempted to publish it.

Year of Publication

It is 1906 and Will Prior is in self-imposed exile on a remote South Pacific island, working a small, and failing, plantation. He should never have told anyone about his previous existence as a military foot policeman in the Boer War, but a man needs friends, even if they are as stuffy and, well, German, as Hauptmann Kessler, the local government representative.

So it is that Kessler approaches Will one hot afternoon, with a request for his help with a problem on a neighbouring island, inhabited by a reclusive, cultish group of European 'cocovores', who believe that sun worship and eating only coconuts will bring them eternal life. Unfortunately, one of their number has died in suspicious circumstances, and Kessler has been tasked with uncovering the real reason for his demise. So along with a 'lady traveller', Bessie Pullen-Burry, who is foisted on them by the archipelago's eccentric owner, they travel to the island of Kabakon, to find out what is really going on.

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