Colonial New Guinea, 1906. A small group of mostly German nudists live an
extreme back-to-nature existence on the remote island of Kabakon. Eating only
coconuts and bananas, they purport to worship the sun. One of their members, Max
Lutzow, has recently died, allegedly from malaria. But an autopsy on his body in
the nearby capital of Herbertshöhe raises suspicions about foul play.
Retired British military police officer Will Prior is
recruited to investigate the circumstances of Lutzow's death. At first, the
eccentric group seems friendly and willing to cooperate with the investigation.
They all insist that Lutzow died of malaria. Despite lack of evidence for a
murder, Prior is convinced the group is hiding something.
Things come to a head during a late-night feast supposedly
given as a send-off for the visitors before they return to Herbertshöhe. Prior
fears the intent of the "celebration" is not to fete the visitors—but to make
them the latest murder victims.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having just read the latest in this author’s Detective Sean Duffy novels, and loved it, I was greatly looking forward to his most recent book, and was not in the least disappointed. Although the setting is as different from 1980’s Ireland as possible, this book is equally terrific, with funny and original writing that makes for a terrific read. Since I couldn’t summarize the plot any more efficiently, I quote from the back of the book: “Colonial New Guinea, 1906. A small group of mostly German nudists, known as the Cocovores, live in extreme back-to-nature existence on the remove island of Kabakon. Eating only coconuts and bananas, they purport to worship the sun. One of their members has recently died, allegedly from malaria. But an autopsy in the nearby capital of Herbertshohe raises suspicions of foul play.” The governor of that capital city appoints retired British military police officer Will Prior to investigate the death, so he travels to “tranquil Kabakon, one of the safe, forgotten islands that lay between New Britain and New Ireland in the deep and ancient waters off the Bismarck Sea.” A very real island, as it happens (the author includes notes on its history in the early days of the 20th century as well as the WWII era), as is the village of Herbertshohe, where even the servants have servants, and where “the day belonged to man, but the night belonged to the things that creeped and crawled and flew from tree to tree in the dense, ancient, primordial jungle.” And the mysterious death that is at the center of the book was real as well. When Prior arrives, he finds the present-day inhabitants of the island (including, unexpectedly, three women) are all quite odd, and possibly mad. Prior notes that one of them, a medical doctor, is thought to be about 55 years old, “which is possibly ancient in the fever latitudes.” The investigation proceeds along inventive lines, and the result is thoroughly satisfying. The book is, as was the author’s prior novel, highly recommended.
Disappointment. What started as an interesting and colorful book (mysterious death in a tropical colonial nudist community ) devolves into something discombobulated, far fetched and not really fitting together, with neither story nor believable characters nor mystery nor solution. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is a classic OIPD-ICPU.