Murder in the Caribbean

Written by Robert Thorogood

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a financial journalist who lives in Leeds but hails from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris.

Murder in the Caribbean
HQ Harpercollins
RRP: £8.99
Released: December 27 2018

I am guessing fellow reviewers of this author’s work have engaged in puns on the ‘thorough goodness’ of same. I cannot do that. Murder in the Caribbean is a trifle; a cosy in the tropics married to a police procedural. Sadly, the book didn’t offer enough “Hey Man, Grooviness” or deft policing to capture my imagination. Readable and with a sense of place, but nothing more.

It starts off so very Agatha Christie: One by one, male residents of the fictional island of Saint-Marie start turning up dead on water and dry land. Tasked with nailing the killer(s) is one Richard Poole, the DI at the town of Honoré.

He works with a motley crew; male and female and together this lot nab the killer and get to the bottom of his or her motivations. The novel spreads out over a few days from the discovery of the first victim - playboy Conrad Gardiner (blown up in a boat). Then the “little Indians” (thankfully only four) start dropping at pace.

Of course, the Coppers uncover the link between Gardiner and the next three victims. The quartet members’ common shame is a bank heist in London in the 1990s. Shameful in that a bystander was killed but successful in that the guys’ escaped with the loot intact, (and three went on to spend the wickedly-gotten gains in various ways).

Pierre Charpentier was not so lucky and did time while his co-conspirators sunned themselves. And wouldn’t you know it, Charpentier’s release from jail coincides with Gardiner’s transformation into fish food.

And so it goes, until the big reveal of who’s been bumping these guys off, one by one. The multiple murderer’s signs the deaths too – by placing a paste ruby lookalike next to the bodies.

Caribbean offers some subplots such as that of lovelorn cop with the improbable moniker of Dwayne or that of Poole’s ongoing quest to find decent British food and a drinkable cup of tea. Cosiness is on the menu, all of this set under sparkling sun in the made-up island near Guadeloupe.

Cosy mystery tales (in my opinion), only work when the lead detective himself or herself bumps up against real terrifying, personal menace, which doesn’t happen here.

Also, the detective needs to be relatable. If he or she has a fatal flaw, the flaw must drive the story. Thorogood paints Poole as having zero social graces but makes up for it with his wily intellect, and above-par detecting skills. That contrast can work well. In this instance, Poole’s main awkwardness involves repeating what other people say back in unfunny Who’s on First routines.  Columbo without the charm or the raincoat. Nothing in Poole stood out for me and certainly not enough for me to check out any future or past adventures.

Also, this island seemed very French, which is great. But why is not Sainte Marie? Maybe Poole can detect the answer to that one for me.

It is a pleasant enough little read. Nothing horribly offensive or abysmally written. One for those struggling with the Brexit or January downers.

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