Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The 2013 Global Reading Challenge is definitely broadening my reading horizons: today’s review is a crime novel set in South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific. The main character is DS Louisa Townsend, the daughter of a Kiribati mother and a Scottish father who lived in Kiribati until she was eight. She has returned to Kiribati as part of a grant to set up a community policing program there, but she doesn’t want to broadcast her connection to the island to her colleagues.
The central crime of the novel involves the death of Joe, a shark fin and sea cucumber exporter who is found dead at a club popular with expatriates on the island. Louisa heads and conducts the investigation basically by herself because most of her colleagues are away attending to other matters. I usually prefer police team investigations in my procedurals, but I was a fan of Louisa.
The novel focuses on the obstacles to Louisa’s investigation in all their forms. Louisa combats her obsessive-compulsive tendencies in order to do her daily work as a police officer. She has to deal with the secrets and lies of everyone, basically, that she interviews in the course of the investigation. Finally, and most importantly, she has to deal with the disadvantage of being an outsider on the island and a woman trying to pursue the murder investigation.
The novel spends plenty of time with a variety of characters: the native islanders and the expatriates, Louisa and her family and, to some extent, her colleagues on the police department. I felt like the picture of the island and its society and its problems was at the forefront of the story until the second half of the novel when the murder investigation progressed. I tend to like more cliffhangers and a pacier read, but I really liked this novel. I think it’s because I needed the background about Kiribati because I didn’t know much about it before I read this book. This book sent me to Wikipedia to find out more.
Food of Ghosts has also been reviewed at Euro Crime.