cover image A Disappearance in Fiji

A Disappearance in Fiji

Nilima Rao. Soho Crime, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64129-429-4

Rao’s lively, elegantly constructed debut follows 25-year-old police sergeant Akal Singh, who was a rising star in Hong Kong until an embarrassing debacle led to his transfer to—in his words—the “godforsaken island” of Fiji in 1914. He does not hit it off with his new superior, Inspector General Thurstrom, and anticipates receiving only inconsequential assignments. The disappearance of a missing indentured worker on a sugar plantation at first raises little interest, but then newspapers start claiming the woman was kidnapped; the publicity forces Thurstrom to send Singh out to investigate. He arrives at the plantation of Henry Parkins and finds that its overseer, John Brown, is also missing. These disappearances don’t seem to concern Parkins and his wife, who suggest that Brown and the woman, Kunti, were lovers who ran away together, but after talking with other workers, Singh becomes convinced there’s something more sinister at play. As he interviews locals and learns more about Fiji’s class strata, Singh begins to wonder whether Brown and Kunti will ever return home. Rao skillfully weaves descriptions of the treatment and living conditions of Indian workers into the propulsive plot and draws a host of vibrant characters. This is an exceptionally promising debut. (June)