Read any Good Books lately? (#22) – Islands and Highlands Pandemic Binge Reading

In my youth I was never a big fan of Murder/Mystery/ Crime fiction. Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie were never on my reading list. But in my late middle age something must have changed because that particular genre of literature is almost my preferred recreational reading. My wife being Scottish may have had something to do with it. She introduced me to the Scottish writer Ian Rankin.  It was only a short hop to the Swedish novels of Henning Mankel  and a whole plethora of Nordic Noir. So now that I am hooked,  I am always on the look out for new writers in the genre and the latest one to come to my attention is B.M. Allsop. She is  an Australian writer of The Fiji Island Mysteries. She lived in the South Pacific islands for fourteen years, including four in Fiji where she worked at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. She now lives in Sydney with her husband and tabby cat. All of the key ingredients of the genre are there in the series. There are good plots with an unexpected twist here and there, peopled by believable, sometimes flawed, characters, all set in a specific geographical location that invests the  novel with a unique atmosphere. On the requirements of plot, personalities and character development The Fiji Island Mysteries scores top marks. In the series there are five novels that feature two main characters, DI Josefa (Joe) Horseman – a washed-up rugby player and DS Susie Singh  a driven Indian woman who has to deal with familiar gender issues as well the racial and feudal issues of Fijian society.

  • Death of a Hero: Fiji Islands Mysteries is the prequel to the Fiji Islands Mysteries series. Set in 1990s Suva, the young Horseman’s first case is not only a twisty whodunit that will have you reaching for your thinking cap, but a sensitive coming-of-age story that will touch your heart…..  Amazon.  This is  the rugby playing Josefa (Joe) Horseman in his youth at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Like most Fijians the motivating force in his life is Rugby and to this end he was on the University rugby team while studying for a business degree. All that changed when the team captain was murdered and he became a prime suspect.To clear his name he became involved in the investigation and in the process his academic focus shifted from business to policing. That’s how it all began.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book one – Death on Paradise Island.  Joe had left University behind him and chosen a career in the police. The chance to play on the police rugby team was a  motivator. Rugby is a brutal game and he suffered some career ending injuries that required treatment and rehabilitation in the USA. On his return to Fiji he is immediately back on the job investigating  a murder on a resort island. Tourism and environmental concerns are big issues on the islands and the murder in a resort setting poses significant challenges and difficulties.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Two – Death by Tradition. “Only 5 more days… Horseman can’t wait for his American girlfriend, to join him in Fiji. So, when a young activist is murdered in the remote highlands, Horseman sets a deadline to crack the case. But he knows nothing of the dangers looming through the mountain mist.” ….. Amazon Books. Fiji must be one of the few feudal societies left on the planet and as such it creates some of the unique challenges that are explored in this story.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Three – Death Beyond the Limit. “DI Joe Horseman stares into the eyes of a severed head fished out of a shark’s gut. Did the tiger shark kill Jona or was he already dead when it clamped its teeth around his neck?” ….. Amazon Books. The novel explores the political and environmental complexities of industrial fishing and how a small island nation has to deal with the big political and commercial international players in the industry.
  • Fijian Island Mysteries: Book Four – Death Sentence. “Everyone in Fiji hates Dev Reddy, in prison for horrific abuse of his own son. When he is released after serving only half his term, the Fiji media whip up a public outcry in Suva. As protest escalates to riot, DI Joe Horseman fears Reddy’s parole may prove to be a death sentence. But Horseman defies the court of public opinion. He must even battle his new boss to protect Reddy just like any other citizen under threat. Together with DS Susie Singh, he pursues blind justice through the streets of Suva and the rural back blocks. Can he unearth a killer the public applauds?” …. Amazon Books.

The series has been a wonderful way to explore the geography and culture of a location that is tucked away from public view and allows one realize that despite the remoteness of the islands there are certain themes and issues that are universal. The place names and the Fijian language might be a bit of a challenge but the rewards are well worth the small effort required.

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Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller Series by G.R. Jordan

This box set collection contains the first six books in the Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller series which have already been published as individual books:

  • Water’s Edge
  • The Bothy
  • The Horror Weekend
  • The Small Ferry
  • Dead at Third Man
  • The Pirate Club

When we think about Scottish Murder/Mysteries the author Ian Rankin and his chief protagonist John Rebus comes to mind. His stories are generally in the urban settings of Edinburgh and we forget that there are are two Scottish realities.  One, the modern urban Scotland that is a land of modern cities similar to the rest of the world albeit with a Scottish accent. Two, the other part of Scotland,  the wilder more primitive  regions of the  north and west – The Highlands and Islands. Ian Rankin’s urban world is much the same as the rest of us, a little grittier perhaps  but with a Scottish accent.  G.R Jordan’s world is a Scotland  where the “Wee Free Church” and a Calvinistic mentality  still has some hold over the minds and manners of men and women. Sunday in that part of Scotland is the Sabbath with attendance at  two Church services and the rest of the day is spent in prayer and contemplation. Nothing moves or is pursued in that part of Scotland on Sunday. Just try and get a restaurant meal on Sunday in the Western Isles. Things are changing but on the Isle of Skye  in 1972 we found that just getting a meal on a Sunday was a challenge.

In this collection of six novels the author invites you to join stalwart policeman  DI Macleod and his burgeoning new DC McGrath as they look into the darker side of the stunningly scenic and wilder parts of the north of Scotland. From the Black Isle to Lewis, from Mull to Harris and across to the small Isles, the Uists and Barra.  This mismatched pair follow murders, thieves and vengeful victims in an effort to restore tranquillity to the remoter parts of the land. MacLeod is very, very  old school and is trying to come to terms with his traditional view of things and the political, cultural and professional changes taking place around him. His new partner, McGrath, is a very modern miss who has to deal with the macho male mentality of her chosen profession but is very much in tune with the changing world around her..

Become a observer of these tales of a surprise partnership, amid the foulest deeds and darkest souls who stalk this peaceful and most beautiful of lands, and you’ll never see the Highlands in the same light ever again.

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I do most of my reading on Kindle. By and large I have nothing but high praise for the device. I particularly like the bright screen and the  instant availability of the dictionary. The only time I find Kindle  less than satisfactory is when the reading material has a lot of graphics. I also subscribe to a service called BookBud that sends me daily listings of budget priced e-books. It has been a wonderful avenue for finding new and interesting books. All at a low cost.  The Fijian Island Mysteries and the Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller Series are two collections that I would not have found otherwise.

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