DEVIL-DEVIL, Graeme Kent
When it comes to convoluted reasons for picking up a book I suspect this is not a bad one. I've had DEVIL-DEVIL on the piles here for quite some time, but I suddenly realised it was the perfect book to read as a comparison with a manuscript I was looking at. Love it when you have a win-win like this.
Set in the Solomon Islands, Ben Kella is a man steeped in island tradition, educated in western tradition. He's worked in London and Manhattan, and is now a sergeant in the Islands' police force as well as holding the hereditary role of Aofia, a peacekeeper of the Lau people. Whilst it might seem that there's little conflict between these two roles, straddling two different worlds is a tricky business when neither side can completely accept you as one of their own. It does seem that tension is a mandatory element between any policeman on the beat and his superiors and this idea certainly supplies that. Just as it's almost mandatory for that policeman to have a colleague in the investigation, and somehow the idea that Catholic Nun, Sister Conchita works here as well.
Set in the Solomon Islands in a time when memories of WWII are still fresh, DEVIL-DEVIL starts off at a cracking pace with kidnapping, a missing anthropologist, smuggling and the curse of a local shaman. Somehow an American Nun quietly trying to dispose of a skeleton fits right in, although don't let that make you think that this book is light or on the silly side.
There are, however, a few predictable elements. Kella is a bit of a loner, fortunately without the lone wolf aspects. Conchita is a bit of a maverick, anti authority, the over-achiever of the pair. Cutting the series a bit of slack, it's not surprising that to get a nun and a local man working together this closely, in this point in history, they had to be exactly what they are. Luckily Kella has a wonderful sense of humour which lightens the earnestness, Conchita has a sense of irony which lessens the potential for her to be a bit over-the-top.
The appeal of DEVIL-DEVIL is however, not just the setting, which was wonderfully, affectionately portrayed. The book gave this reader a glimpse into what is still somehow a post WWII society, firmly based in traditional culture, aware of the incoming influences of Western thinking, and trying to find a balance.
It's not easy being Ben Kella. As a sergeant in the Solomon Islands Police Force, as well as an aofia, a hereditary spiritual peacekeeper of the Lau people, he is viewed with distrust by both the indigenous islanders and the British colonial authorities.
In the past few days he has been cursed by a magic man, stumbled across evidence of a cargo cult uprising, and failed to find an American anthropologist who had been scouring the mountains for a priceless pornographic icon. Then, at a mission station, Kella discovers an independent and rebellious young American nun, Sister Conchita, secretly trying to bury a skeleton.
The unlikely pair of Kella and Conchita are forced to team up to solve a series of murders that tie into all these other strange goings on.
Set in the 60's in one of the most beautiful and dangerous areas of the South Pacific, Devil-Devil launches an exciting new series.