Fiji – The Shoeshine Killer – Marianne Wheelaghan

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Why a booktrail?

A Scottish detective who now works for the Kiribati police in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

Story in a nutshell

DS Louisa Townsend has moved from Edinburgh where she has lived and worked for most of her life to return to her home turf of Tarawa, a remote coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Two worlds which could not be further apart if you tried. But she deals with the culture shock well and is warmly referred to by the locals as the Scottish Lady Detective.

She heads over to Fiji for a money laundering conference and from the very moment she gets there, things start to get very weird indeed. Someone breaks into her room as she sleeps for a start but that’s nothing compared to the shock at finding the body of someone she’s just met.

Of course Louisa wants to know more but the local police tell her to keep out of it. She starts to worry that the break-ins might be linked in some way and so she is determined to get to the truth. But sometimes the truth can get you killed.

Place and setting

*Suva airport - where Louisa arrives on the island of Fiji Nausori Fiji -18.042263, 178.553135 *Tamavua - a suburb of Suva where Rick and Stewy live Tamavua-i-wai Road Suva, Fiji -18.114923, 178.433006 *Suva bay - “They headed down towards a sweeping basin of blue surrounded by cloud smothered mountains” Narain Jetty Suva, Fiji -18.130462, 178.425929 *Holiday Inn - Suva Where the conference is being held
*Suva airport – where Louisa arrives on the island of Fiji
Nausori
Fiji
*Tamavua – a suburb of Suva where Rick and Stewy live
*Suva bay – “They headed down towards a sweeping basin of blue surrounded by cloud smothered mountains”
Narain Jetty
*Holiday Inn – Suva
Where the conference is being held

The story of the Shoeshine Killer follows Food of Ghosts which is set on Tarawa, a small and very remote atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is the home of DS Louisa Townsend who was born there before she moved to Edinburgh where she had lived and worked until recently returning to Tarawa for good.

The Scottish lady detective is now in Fiji for a money laundering conference and lands just as the country is undergoing a tumultuous period in its history. A military coup has just been announced forcing her to relocate hotels. It’s in the small B & B where murder knocks at her door and she is drawn into Fiji’s underbelly

Fiji is the exotic and mysterious setting –  The weather is the first thing she notices –

Sheets of bluebottle black raindrops battered the  ground outside, No one told her Fiji would be wet. Tarawa was hot and dry.

There’s also a real sense of place, and feel for the colours and various layers of Fiji society.

“…the army have all the guns and everyone must do as they say”

Fiji has many problems – Before he was killed, the victim was seen talking to some shoe shine boys in town who clean visitors shoes at the side of the road. There is a group of these boys who all live in a cramped house, controlled by a reckless boss for a start and it’s clear that they have some sort of connection to the B&B owner. This is just a small insight into a wider world of drug lords and other criminals who seem to pervade the streets of the island. Louisa finds herself in a maze trying to make sense of it all  – before it can swallow her whole and eat her alive.

Review

There’s something very special about this series that really gets me involved and really wanting to read this.The title itself is intriguing but it’s shine comes from a whole range of theigs – from the setting of course which is just so unique and stunningly evoked to the character of Louisa herself who has OCD and who is from two very different cultures. The lack of Forensics on these islands is another ‘obstacle’ she has to overcome as well as the reluctance of local police to let her into their confidence. It just all works really well and makes for a thrilling premise for a crime novel with a difference.

When I first saw the title I was intrigued as shoe shine boys are not something I’ve ever seen least of all read about, but these little cultural insights are dotted across every page, woven into the fabric of the story so even though this never reads as a ‘guide’, it’s a great novel to see inside the country in a way you’ve never done before.

I like Louisa I do. I feel I connect with her in many ways and always feel as if I understand her and where she’s coming from. She has a unique background and status in life and I am looking forward to meeting her again in the next novel.

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Pacific Ocean – Kiribati – The Food Of Ghosts – Marianne Wheelaghan

FOOD

Why a booktrail?

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

Booktrail *Tarawa Tarawa is an atoll and the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean. *Kiribati Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, comprises 33 coral atolls stretching along the equator *Beru Island Where six of the islands policeman are at a funeral *Betio The shanty town they drive through on the way to the crime scene *Bonriki  The airport into the atoll *Birkenibeu A location for the investigation
Booktrail
*Tarawa
Tarawa is an atoll and the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, in the central Pacific Ocean.
*Kiribati
Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, comprises 33 coral atolls stretching along the equator
*Beru Island
Where six of the islands policeman are at a funeral
*Betio
The shanty town they drive through on the way to the crime scene
*Bonriki
The airport into the atoll
*Birkenibeu
A location for the investigation

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.

Review

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!