Death by Tradition, B.M. Allsopp
DEATH BY TRADITION is the second book in the Fiji Islands Mystery series, following on closely from DEATH ON PARADISE ISLAND. It's probably best if you can read both of these novels in order, as background to the central character's lives, the society in which they operate, and their interactions is pretty well central to everything here.
In this second novel, DI Joe Horseman, policeman, local rugby star, has been back in his homeland for a while, after a knee injury put pay to his overseas ambitions. He's impatiently awaiting the arrival of his American girlfriend, and physiotherapist Melissa, when a murder occurs, in the worst possible timing. For the victim and for Horseman, although, it was hard to avoid wondering who was the most put out at times. The investigation of the brutal death of a young man, bludgeoned in his home village, threatens to derail Horseman and Melissa's reunion, especially as the village in which it occurred is remote, difficult to access, with no radio coverage, and the people are steeped in traditional beliefs and ways.
It's up to Horseman and his DS, Susie Singh to solve this case, but the subsequent disappearance of a young woman in the same village complicates matters even further, chewing up yet more precious time - time that could threaten more lives and Horseman's romantic intentions.
As with the first novel in this series, the sense of culture and place is incredibly strong, as is the way in which the game of rugby is so integral to the people's lives. The deeply traditional beliefs and lifestyle of this village contrast interestingly with the holiday resort setting from the first novel as well, giving more of a glimpse into daily life for some Fijian people. I particularly like the way that there are such views of a very different way of life, although, in this case, the presence of Melissa does add a hefty dollop of romantic angst to this outing.
The plot here is nicely intertwined with the tensions that are occurring in this remote village - between the chief's insistence on atonement for an ancient crime, a farming project, promoted by the dead man, that is trying to improve and even modernise the lives of villagers, and the hierarchy of influence between families and positions in such a traditional place.
An enjoyable, and insightful series of novels, the Fiji Islands Mysteries lean a little to the non-confrontational side of crime fiction, without tipping into cosy territory completely, and the addition of the romantic interest may be the icing on the cake for many readers.
Must DI Joe Horseman sacrifice his chance at love to catch a killer?
Only 5 more days… Horseman can’t wait for Melissa, his American girlfriend, to join him in Fiji. This time, he wants love to last.
So, when a young activist is murdered at Tanoa in the remote highlands, Horseman sets a deadline to crack the case. Too close a deadline, for Tanoa is beyond radio reach. What’s more, the villagers are steeped in the old ways and cannot be hurried. To get anywhere, Horseman and his partner DS Susie Singh must navigate both the back roads and the minefield of Fijian custom with care.
But the villagers have their own deadline: their chief has decreed Tanoa must atone for an ancient crime that still haunts the present.
As Horseman counts the hours to Melissa’s touch down, he has no idea of the dangers looming through the mountain mist.
Death by Tradition is the second book in the Fiji Islands Mysteries series. Crime fans who enjoy discovering exotic places will love B.M. Allsopp’s insight into contemporary Fiji.